Friday, March 18, 2011

Call Me a Guinness-Fueled Groupie

Sometimes, I discovered, it pays to be a groupie.

A friend had e-mailed me that he was playing at Positive Vibe Cafe on St. Patrick's Day and that "I'd love to see you." So naturally I went.

Their specials menu of Irish dishes (New England Boiled Dinner, Corned Buffalo Dinner, Sheppard's Pie and Guinness Irish Stew) were all too tempting for a half Irish lass. Knowing that they'd corned the brisket themselves made my decision all the tougher.

I was torn between the corned bison and the Guinness stew, but I didn't have to decide until my friend finished playing and his girlfriend arrived and we could all eat together, so I had plenty of time. Meanwhile, the restaurant was filling to capacity with people in green attire.

The guy at the table next to me wanted green beer, so his server asked what kind of beer he wanted. When he requested a very dark beer, his server explained that it was not a good candidate for greening and he settled for something more dye-worthy. Is this what St. Patrick's Day has come to?

My friend was playing viola ("for the mid-range") to Russel's guitar and vocals. The set began with Russel saying, "Karen, can you hear the guitar?" Yes, and the viola Dave was playing, too, but why ask a know-nothing like me?

They started with "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" and segued nicely into, as Russell put it, "the Irish poet Van Morrison's" Moondance. Irishman Donovan followed with "Colors," one of several of his songs covered tonight.

I clapped enthusiastically for each song, not just because of my friend's viola playing, but because it was fun to hear these old Irish standards. Later I was thanked for clapping loud enough "for multiple people."

Their second set ended with that American-written vaudeville classic, "Danny Boy" and by then the girlfriend had arrived and it was finally time to eat.

The unexpected heartbreak was that the restaurant had been so slammed that they'd run out of all the Irish specials except the stew. So, Irish beef stew it was for the three of us and we were more than happy to have it.

Full of meat, potatoes and carrots, the Guinness gave it a nice sweetness and even the chef said he planned to have a bowl himself (that and make sure that he overplanned for Mother's Day business after leaning his lesson tonight). So the fact is, I did have Guinness for the first time in my life.

We finished with the fudge brownie topped with Bailey's Irish cream mousse (a tasty but sickening green color, but 'tis the day for such) before deciding to head somewhere decidedly un-Irish to finish out the evening. Mezzanine was our agreed-upon destination.

Packed when we arrived, first two stools and then a third opened up to accommodate us. We began with a bottle of the MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir (with Dave humming the "My Three Sons" theme as it was being poured) and a rehashing of the evening at Positive Vibe.

By the time the second bottle arrived, we were deep in discussion of Belmont Food shop (located in their neighborhood, but I was the only one who'd yet to visit), driving to Ashland for music (Dave and I have a history there) and the fact that she and I are the only two females alive without pierced ears (no, really).

In our ears was Pandora, set to Deerhunter, which provided an earwigging mix of Kings of Leon, the Arcade Fire and the Killers. When Band of Horses came on, Dave's ears pricked up. "Who is this?" he asked me. "I would like this."

I told him, I elaborated on the band, shared my impressions of seeing them live and all the while our bartender must have been paying attention. Soon we were hearing Pandora with Band of Horses as a starting point. Bravo for server attentiveness.

Dave insisted on the next course being tequila and while his love demurred, I of course did not. Herradura for him and Hornitos for me were our substitutions for Irish whiskey on this Gaelic night of being surrounded by guys in bad green wigs and hats.

"My treat!" he proclaimed at the end of the evening. "You were nice enough to come hear me play and you clapped the loudest."

But I do that any time I enjoy well-done music; it's a rare occasion that I get anything but an audio treat for being a groupie.

Maybe this is the reward for being a groupie to a friend. If so, I like it.

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