Monday, March 7, 2016

Let the Music Play

Millie's was back in the music business tonight, so why not?

My escort made certain we arrived just as the doors opened, ensuring us seats in the soon-to-be-filled-to-overflowing back room, next to a charming older couple who gave us the lowdown on Stone Brewing.

They'd been expecting a river view, only to be disappointed. Unaware that Stone isn't yet brewing here, they had to settle for brought-in bottled beer. And apparently with so much construction equipment still parked around, they drove the circumference several times in search of the industrial-looking tasting room before finding it.

Seems that visit to Stone had been the other day and on their way back, they'd passed Millie's and the husband had commented that it had been years since they'd been to one of Millie's Sunday night music buffets. And then, poof! Just like that, they read that one was happening tonight.

Here they'd thought they'd just been missing out, but actually it was the first time in years Millie's had resurrected the dynamite combo of food and music, a bargain at $5 each, collected by a handsome man in a checked hat and striped shirt with a smile as wide as his face.

We settled into a two-top, ordering easy-drinking Castillo Peralada Brut Rosado from the "Giggle Water" menu because nothing says Sunday night fun like pink bubbles, meanwhile watching the room quickly swell with eager music devotees for what was spontaneously dubbed a "tiny room concert."

Our server alerted us sotto voice that the buffet was ready, so we headed over to score steaming bowls of chicken curry ("I thought we might order it in, but they made it in house," she shared) punctuated with sweet potatoes, chickpeas, onions and a melange of spices with the undercurrent of chili powder for subtle heat, over rice with triangles of pita.

Veggie curry was also an option, but why would we?

A quartet of condiments such as mango chutney, raita and a spicy green tomatillo sauce provided personalizing options. For five bucks, it was a solid meal and we chowed down as the band - acoustic guitar, mandolin and keys - began performing at the back of the room.

Playing a mixture of originals and covers, the Tarrant Trio won over the audience with songs about how it takes a woman like you to get to the man in me and another about the American Dream.

Singer Jordan said to the crowd, "She's coming back," after singing about how "the candle's always lit," but he didn't sound entirely confident that she would.

Even funnier was when he announced that when he'd first moved to town, owner Paul had given him a job as a dishwasher. "I was told repeatedly by every chef here that I was the worst dishwasher ever. I was slow."

"Slow but powerful!" Paul called from the back near where we sat. "That's what she said!"

The song "Cheap Shit from China" included a cheap kazoo solo that he admitted could use a little work and "Front Door" was about moving here, aka the dishwasher period.

Their take on David Allen Coe's "You Never Even Call Me By My Name" even got the cute couple next to us grinning and the missus dancing in her seat. Sometimes, all you need is the mention of Charlie Pride to feel the music on a Sunday night.

During the band's promised "five-minute break" that lasted 20, I ventured downstairs where the jarringly cold basement toilet seat greeted me and hastened the call of duty.

The second set began with the Millie's Diner girls - two women at a front table drinking red wine - joining the band on back-up vocals for "Hey, Good Lookin'." Things were sounding good, voices just the right volume, mandolin breaking your heart, keys tying it all together.

Soon the Tarrant Trio moved into a Beatles' set that seemed to delight most of the people in the room (I'd have danced to "Something" right there between the tables if I'd been asked) before returning to their own sensitive singer-songwriter milieu, in the vein of Townes van Zandt's "If I Needed You," which they'd done earlier.

Thanks, Millie's, for resurrecting a fine tradition with a twist. This new ex-dishwasher series you've got going is excellent.

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