Dave Mason

Dave Mason at Tarrytown Music Hall

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Last night was our eighth concert at Tarrytown Music Hall, and our third Dave Mason show (first one at the Hall). I covered the previous shows extensively here and here.

To summarize the things that were the same: Dave Mason is beyond awesome. His voice is still amazing, and his fingers move across the guitar like butter. The old songs are as magical today as they were then. The news songs (he recently released a new CD called 26 Letters ~ 12 Notes) are wonderful as well, showing that he hasn’t lost a step in all these years.

DaveMason

Dave Mason

The band (each and every member) is fantastic.

That said, there were a number of differences last night, some even notable. 🙂

Two band members who toured with Dave last year, and were at both of the shows we attended, have been replaced. I tried (reasonably hard, but hardly exhaustive) and I couldn’t find any articles explaining their departure. The band page has scrubbed their existence.

The links to their bios from my previous posts still work, but they point to the new person playing that instrument. Strange. In fact, now that I looked, one of the links that worked before was to a name of someone that was already gone from the band. In other words, they replace pictures and bios on the site, but keep the old links…

Anthony (Tony) Patler replaced Bill Mason on keyboards and vocals. We both loved Bill Mason’s singing and playing, so I’m sad (for him) to see him gone (unless it was his choice to move on). Tony was incredible last night, both on the keyboards and on vocals, so the band didn’t lose any magic in swapping him in.

Johnne Sambataro and Tony Patler

Johnne Sambataro and Tony Patler

Gerald Johnson replaced Alex Drizos on bass. Alex didn’t sing, but Gerald does, on a few numbers. Gerald used to tour with Dave back in the 70’s, so he’s no stranger to the music. If you read my past posts, you know that I think very highly of Alex on the bass.

Gerald Johnson

Gerald Johnson

Like with Bill Mason above, I can’t find a mention of why Alex is no longer with the band. Like with Tony above, Gerald is absolutely incredible, in fact, better than Alex (in my opinion), so the band lost nothing here either (though fans of Alex certainly have…).

Johnne Sambataro was as incredible as he’s been at the previous shows. He’s a crowd favorite, rightfully so!

Alvino Bennett was again amazing. Last night was a treat for me personally, as in both previous shows, I had very restricted views of Alvino, and I’m a drum nut. Last night, he and Tony were on an elevated platform behind Dave, Johnne and Gerald, so Alvino and his drum set were in full view. The man has guns for biceps!

Alvino Bennett

Alvino Bennett

Last night posed a few challenges for Alvino. He broke three separate drums (I assume the skins) during the performance. Dave kidded that Alvino doesn’t know his own strength!

In one number, I noticed him unscrewing a snare drum and handing it to a stage hand, while the song continued. He never caused a disruption, using his bass foot pedal, and occasionally his right hand to keep the beat, while repairing his drum in real time! Unbelievable!

As with the previous shows, Alvino didn’t take any solos, but was solid as a rock. He’s a master drummer.

The one other major difference last night was the venue. If you read my post yesterday (which I’m not linking to because it’s way off topic for this post), then you’ll find what I’m about to say ironic. 😉

Tarrytown Music Hall is a wonderful old theater. Even though the seats are ancient, they are extremely comfortable. We were in the seventh row and had a wonderful line of sight to the entire band. The sound system was excellent last night, and all of the instruments and mics were set at the appropriate levels relative to each other.

Given that we were facing the stage (as opposed to BB King, where you generally have to contort a bit because you’re at a dinner table), the entire experience was as excellent as we could have hoped for.

Dave Mason was on stage for 95 minutes, including his signature encore of Feelin’ Allright.

Opening for Dave Mason last night was the TJay Trio. TJay is good guitarist. One thing that he does particularly well is seamlessly switch between lead and rhythm playing. That’s good, because he’s the only one playing each style.

TJay

TJay

His singing is pleasant enough, and he certainly hits every note, but I didn’t find his voice that interesting, and it was nearly impossible to catch any three words in a row (which was not a problem when Dave Mason was at the mic).

Correction: Nick Soto played the bass, filling in for regular TJay Trio bassist Mick Houser. Afterward, Nick sat across the aisle from Lois for the Dave Mason set. He’s extremely good. I thoroughly enjoyed his play throughout their set!

Nick is constantly moving on the stage (he has tons of energy), and Lois was unable to get a single shot of him that was in focus. Sorry Nick, this was the best of a bunch of bad ones…

Nick Soto

Nick Soto

Correction: Bryan Rinaldi played the drums, filling in for normal TJay Trio drummer Rob Gueli. Nothing flashy, but very solid throughout the set.

Bryan Rinaldi

Bryan Rinaldi

They played a nice mix of rock, blues and jazz and received enthusiastic applause from the crowd after each number. They were on stage for 40 minutes, and warmed up the crowd nicely for Dave. They were also well-matched genre-wise to be an opening act for Dave.

One footnote regarding last night in relation to the night before. There is little doubt that the crowd last night was as in love with Dave Mason as the crowd the night before was in love with Yonder Mountain String Band. And yet, nearly everyone sat in their seats all night, until the encore (I’m not counting the standing ovations).

This isn’t a mark of their age, lack of energy, or lack of love of the artist. It’s a mark of their respect for their neighbors, who came to see the same show, with certain expectations. It was a thing of beauty to see the one woman who was dancing at her seat for 1/2 a song, finally realize that no one else stood up to follow her lead, and she quietly sat down with no one having to say anything to her. 🙂

In order to avoid the typical parking problems in Tarrytown before a show at the Hall, on both Friday and Saturday nights, we came to town 30 minutes early, parked four or five blocks away, and walked to Main Street Sweets for some Ice Cream.

On Friday, it was our first time ever at Main Street Sweets (I read some excellent reviews online of their home-made Ice Cream). Obviously, it was good enough to schedule our return for the next night. It’s a block and a half down Main Street from Tarrytown Music Hall, so it’s easy to relax eating some Ice Cream, and time it to walk into the Hall whenever you like.

Dave Mason at BB King

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Last night couldn’t come soon enough for us. We loved Dave Mason’s show at Blend Bar on March 6, 2008 (covered in this post). The experience at Blend Bar was less than special, but the show was awesome. We immediately grabbed two tickets to see Dave again on April 4th at BB King, a place we frequent often and love.

As covered in this post, Dave called in sick that day, but we didn’t check in advance, and ended up showing up nonetheless. That show was rescheduled for sometime in June (a date that worked for us). That date was quickly canceled and rescheduled for last night (July 22nd, 2008). We held on to our original tickets, which were honored last night. Third time was indeed the charm at BB King.

The show was close to the same set list from Blend, but not identical (one example, they didn’t play Every Woman last night). In terms of their sound, and individual talents, every word in my previous post applies, so I won’t repeat that. Let me just say what was (slightly) different about last night’s show.

John (Johnne) Sambataro was as good as he was at Blend, and killed the crowd on at least two spectacular solos, but he was actually highlighted a little less last night than he was at Blend.

Johnne Sambataro

Johnne Sambataro

Bill Mason was actually highlighted a drop more last night. He’s a fantastic keyboards guy. His fingers were flying on his Roland, all night long, in particular on the numerous solos that he took.

Bill Mason

Bill Mason

There was a new guy added to the lineup last night, but even though Dave introduced him at least twice, I didn’t catch the name (Chris something I think). He played percussion (mostly bongos, a little tambourine, etc.). I couldn’t make out a single sound that I could attribute to him, but his hands were clearly moving fast, and in perfect rhythm with the music, so I assume he’s really good. No idea really. 🙁

Even this photo is the fuzziest of the bunch. Perhaps he wasn’t even really there! 😉

Unknown Band Member

Unknown Band Member

Alvino Bennett was awesome. In my last review I understated his playing a bit. Partially, it was because he was obscured in the corner, and partially, it was because he never took a solo. Last night, we sat at the right-most edge of the stage, a few feet back from it. Alvino was in the right-hand corner of the stage, so my view was of his forearms forward. In other words, all I could see were the drum sticks, his wrists, and some forearms, flying all night long.

Ironically, that gave me a very deep appreciation for how good this guy is. He had to lose 10 pounds while playing last night. Even though he doesn’t take any solos, his beats are fast, furious, constant, and perfect. To be clear, he wasn’t worse at Blend, I just didn’t get to pay as much attention to him, as I was so mesmerized to see Dave in person for the first time then. Anyway, Alvino is truly a great drummer!

Here’s a good shot of Alvino waving goodnight to the crowd after the show:

Alvino Bennett

Alvino Bennett

Lois had a slightly better angle on Alvino than I did, so she was able to catch him at the drums when he leaned forward slightly. 🙂

Alvino Bennett Drums

Alvino Bennett Drums

Alex Drizos was incredible on the bass. I could almost mirror the words I said about Alvino with regard to the drums, and apply them to Alex on the bass. He impressed me tremendously at Blend as well, but last night, we sat closer to Alex than to anyone else on the stage, so I got to watch his fingers in action a bit more.

While he too doesn’t get highlighted for solos, his bass lines are extremely interesting, often complex, and never overwhelm the rest of the band. He was great too!

Alex Drizos

Alex Drizos

That leaves the great man himself, Dave Mason. Wow. It was worth the wait. As I noted in the Blend review, his voice is still superb and his fingers are still silky smooth and super fast on the guitar (both six and 12 string). He’s not the most talkative guy on stage, but when he does speak, he’s warm and funny (and interesting). The band clearly loves each other, and they play incredibly tightly together!

Dave Mason

Dave Mason

For those who don’t feel like reading the Blend review (why not?!?), I’ll repeat here that Dave also has new music (in fact, he’s releasing a new CD on September 30th). At Blend, he played at least three new songs. Last night, he played two. They are awesome, so he’s still got it, in every way. Of course, his old stuff is as good as it gets as well, so he is incapable of disappointing no matter what they play!

They were announced at 8:03pm and all but Dave came out on the stage. Within 10 seconds, Alex moved to the center microphone and apologized and asked the crowd to give them a minute. They all left the stage.

After a 10 minute break, at 8:14pm, they were announced again, and all of them, including Dave, came on this time. Whew. 🙂

They played for 75 minutes and ended with a rousing standing ovation. When they came back out for the encore, they had a special guest star, Jimmy Vivino. I hadn’t heard of him before, but the bio on his site is quite interesting and impressive.

Jimmy Vivino

Jimmy Vivino

Dave let Jimmy play his guitar (something that is reasonably rare in my experience). They played Stormy Monday (one of my all-time favorite blues tunes, I listen to the Allman Brothers Band version all the time). Dave sang (and didn’t play guitar at all). He was awesome, of course. Jimmy played lead throughout. He’s fantastic. I’d be happy to catch him in any other show and get to know his music and enjoy his talent more thoroughly!

After that, Jimmy left the stage, Dave took back his guitar, and they closed with the same number they closed Blend with, Feelin’ Alright. The crowd stood and danced (or swayed in my case) 😉 throughout the finale. We left on a complete high.

They were on stage for 90 minutes in total, and rocked the house down for every second of it.

For whatever reason, we decided that we were willing to risk slightly less-than-perfect seats last night, in exchange for not standing on line in the heat for too long. So, we left a bit later than we normally would. Since we both showered right before leaving, we also decided to take the bus (even though it’s a short walk to BB King) to enjoy the air-conditioning bliss that often is delivered on modern NYC buses.

Lois was quick to get her camera out of her bag when she spotted this colorful Statue of Liberty on the sidewalk (photo taken from inside the bus):

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

We got to BB King at 6:15pm (doors officially open at 6pm). There was still a short line outside, but it worked out exactly as we hoped (dare I say, planned?) and we moved inside within five minutes. We were seated by 6:25pm, in pretty good seats.

We both had the Chopped Salad (yes, I am soliciting polite golf claps for being good). It’s a really excellent salad. I had Pulled Pork on top (OK, not quite as good as Lois) 😉 and we split a side of Red Cabbage Slaw (they make that really well there too!).

In all of the shows that we’ve seen at BB King (which is many) even when there is an opening act, that opener comes on stage at 8pm. Last night, at 7:15pm, the lights dimmed a bit, and they announced David Jacobs-Strain. He came on the stage with an acoustic guitar.

David Jacobs-Strain

David Jacobs-Strain

He opened with an instrumental, and it was obvious throughout that this guy is an extremely talented guitar player. He played a number of blues songs, the rest all included him singing as well as playing slide guitar. He has a good voice as well.

While we both enjoyed his performance, especially that it was a true bonus, not cutting into any Dave Mason time, nor lengthening the evening at all, it’s not particularly my style of music. That should take nothing away from David, who is wildly talented, and those that like raw blues, will love this guy!

That said, here’s the really cool part of the story. The night before, David opened for Dave Mason at Rams Head in Annapolis, MD. After the show, Dave’s road manager called him in for a chat. David was obviously nervous that somehow, he blew it. Instead, he received a pleasant surprise, which was hearing that Dave was inviting him to open at BB King the next night!

David was supposed to head to California yesterday, but made the correct choice (IMHO) of joining Dave for another night, and playing at BB King. Kudos to Dave for wanting to highlight a real talent (when Dave came on, he retold the story that David did, and said that David was the real deal, and we could all use some more real deal in our lives). Kudos to BB King for being flexible, and starting an opening act at 7:15pm, accommodating everyone involved!

David played for exactly 30 minutes.

After the show, David was selling CDs in the lobby. Even though this isn’t exactly the style of music we normally buy, we both like to support live music in general, and talented musicians in particular, so we bought David’s CD: Liar’s Day. Lois got him to sign it for us as well. 🙂

Dave Mason Get Well

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We were headed to see Dave Mason at BB King last night. (No links in this post.) I even Twittered about it, so it had to be official. 😉

We got to BB’s a few minutes after the door was supposed to open, and were quite surprised (pleased?) to see that there was no line outside. We walked straight downstairs, and the place was significantly emptier than we expected (figuring that Dave likely sold out the place).

The poor guy at the door has to tell us that Dave called in sick at 1pm. 🙁

To make it up, they are putting on a free show with a cover band that does lots of Yes stuff (and some other covers I don’t recall). I love Yes, so we figure we’ll stay (I’m also starving and I like the food at BB’s).

Before we go in, I go to the box office and buy tickets to four additional shows that we want to see there (including three nights in a row later in April!). We try to get a refund for the Dave Mason tickets, but can’t, because we bought them through Ticketmaster. Oh well, a small hassle, but not a big deal…

We sit down at a good table, and get ready to order drinks and dinner. Given the chaos of the day, the band was on the stage working on the sound check (obviously, they didn’t have much notice to get there). It was painfully loud. I looked over at Lois and asked if she wanted to leave. There was no hesitation in her response.

It wasn’t a complete loss. While we took the bus over, we walked home (a little exercise never hurt anyone, or at least doesn’t often hurt people) 😉 and we got to pick up tickets (without all of the wonderful convenience charges of Ticketmaster).

We ended up having dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, right across the street from the apartment. Obviously, we had no reservations and the place is almost always packed. We walked in at exactly 6:45pm. The guy told us he could put us in a booth (that easily handles six people), if we promised to be out by 8:30pm. I laughed pretty hard (he knows us, so I wasn’t insulting him). I told him we’d be out by 7:30pm! 😉

They put another couple in the same booth a minute later, but we each had enough privacy. We were out of there at 7:23pm, so we could have taken a little more time. 😉

Awesome food (Seafood Enchiladas for me) and a perfect Frozen Margarita (as always).

All-in-all, a very pleasant evening, though not even close to what we originally expected.

Go with the flow, or as Dave Mason himself says:

Let it go, let it go, let it flow live a river
Let it go, let it go, let it flow through you

🙂

P.S. There seem to be a rash of these cancellations due to illness lately. We had tickets to Dolly Parton at Radio City Music Hall on March 7th, and that tour got canceled. Already rescheduled for May 1, and we’re going (same tickets, same seats). Joan Baez canceled this past Monday from the Paramount Theater (we weren’t going) and has already rescheduled. Allman Brothers Band also canceled their Beacon Theater Dates (we have tickets, and are awaiting announcement of the new dates), and now Dave Mason.

All of you, please, Get Well Soon! 🙂

Dave Mason at Blend

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Last night we saw Dave Mason play at Blend in Ridgewood, NJ.

Some things about last night were perfect, others far from it. Since I acquiesced to Lois when similar problems occurred at Canal Room in NYC (covered in this post), I’ll do it again, and cover the music (the perfect part!) first, so you can ignore all the peeves later on.

I have loved Dave Mason from the very start (I was a fan of Traffic, as well as the Dave Mason Band, forever). I still actively listen to both bands on my iPod. Lois doesn’t know Traffic, and until recently, didn’t know Dave Mason well either (though some of his stuff is so famous that she knew it, but didn’t know whose song it was).

When I noticed that Dave was playing at Blend (more details on that in the negative section), I played one of his albums for her in the car, so she too was excited to see them last night.

There are five guys in the band. I linked to the band section of the site above, rather than to the home page (which doesn’t seem to be particularly up-to-date). You can certainly read the bios on that site better than I can summarize them here, but I want to mention at least something about each member of the band.

In their order on the stage, left-to-right:

  • John (Johnne) Sambataro played both acoustic and electric guitars. He was fantastic. When it was his turn to wail, wail he did, leaving the crowd in a frenzy. But, he’s no hog, as he supported the entire band when that was more appropriate.
  • Bill Mason played the organ (electric piano). He was solid the entire night. On a few numbers, Dave turned it over to Bill for long solos. He was incredible on all of them. Like Johnne above, he brought down the house whenever the spotlight was on him.
  • Alvino Bennett played the drums. Super solid, perfect rhythm all night, just the right amount of flare. They never gave him a real solo, so I don’t know how he cooks when it’s all about him, but I have no doubt that he can cook. His sense of timing is exceptional. My only complaint is that he’s a little too unselfish, a little too the glue that keeps the band together. Suffice it to say, a great drummer!
  • Alex Drizos played bass. Basically, everything that I said about Alvino above regarding the drums applies to Alex on the bass. So solid it was wonderful to watch and feel the bass lines that he was laying down. Nothing flashy, ever, but always there to keep the bottom perfectly with the entire band.

Both Johnne and Alex sang incredible harmony with Dave all night. Bill sang on at least one number that I noticed, but certainly not many.

Here are photos of the band, sorry about the quality:

Johnne Sambataro and Bill MasonAlvino BennettAlex Drizos

On to the star, Dave Mason himself. I was a tad nervous going in for three reasons:

  1. Would he still have it? (If you recall, I briefly mentioned how awful the Jefferson Starship were in my uber-post on rediscovering live music.)
  2. Would he play the old big hits, or just do new stuff (and if the latter, was his new stuff any good)?
  3. Even if he played the old stuff, and even if he was flawless, would he play them the way I expected to hear them, or would he tinker too much?

I have definitive answers to all of my questions (and perhaps yours) coming up right now! 🙂

Dave Mason is awesome. That answers #1 above. His voice is excellent (as always), and he can hit the full range of notes required to make his hits come alive, which is not unimpressive, since there are some pretty high notes in a number those songs. Whew!

His fingers still fly on the guitar. He doesn’t miss any notes, and he’s as soulful on some of the leads, while rocking the house down on others. Quiet when appropriate, driving at other times. A master of the guitar. On a number of his big hits, he played a 12-string guitar, and the sound of that is just wonderful as well.

Here’s Dave on the 12 string guitar:

Dave Mason on the 12 string guitar

On to #2. The answer is both! He played quite a number of his giant hits, opening the show with World in Changes and Let It Go, Let if Flow. During the night, he also played All Along the Watchtower, Every Woman, We Just Disagree and a couple of other favorites. He also played the title cut from the first Traffic album!

But, I said both above! He also played new tunes that I have never heard. They were awesome! While I would have been wildly disappointed to not hear any of the oldies, I have to admit, if he only played new stuff, and it was as good as the (at least three) numbers that he played last night, I still would have considered the show to be fantastic!

Finally, #3 above. If you watch any TV, you may know the slogan for Simply Orange (it’s an orange juice company). Their slogan is: 100% Unfooled Around With! That should be Dave’s motto with regard to playing the crowd favorites. He couldn’t have delivered better. Whew! 🙂

Dave was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. That was based on his being part of Traffic. For my money, he could be inducted again, just for good measure, on the basis of his Dave Mason Band work, including his new stuff!

Two of his new numbers were played relatively early in the show, and both were electric numbers. Here’s a YouTube video of one of them (from a previous show, well done, but much cooler last night). He only plays a drop of guitar on that number (but still beautifully), and it doesn’t stretch his vocal capabilities, but it’s such a fun song! The catch-phrase line is: Ain’t Your Legs Tired Baby, ‘Cause You Keep On Runnin’ Through My Mind! 😉

As a group, they are extremely tight. No one ever overwhelms the others and the sound engineer keeps the relative volumes correct throughout. His name is Chris Curtis.

They played for 75 minutes, then left the stage (extremely briefly) for the obligatory encore. When they came back out it was just Dave and Johnne with acoustic guitars only. They played another new number that was gorgeous! Then the entire band rejoined, and they played Dave’s money song, Feelin’ Alright. They jammed it perfectly with Dave and Johnne playing lead guitars that reminded me of some of the great guitar duels performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Total time on stage was almost exactly 90 minutes. It left me with a strong taste for more, but it was completely satisfying at the same time! Bravo Dave, Johnne, Bill, Alvino and Alex, you were simply awesome!

They’re playing on April 4th, 2008 at BB King. I’m only telling you this because I just grabbed two tickets, so I’m no longer worried about him selling out (last night’s show was sold out). You are now forewarned that if you don’t go see Dave, you’re missing out on a great show! 😉

OK, this post is already long, but has only been positive. I have a ton of negative things to say about last night, and it won’t be short either, so this post will be horribly long when it’s all said and done. Please feel free to stop reading if you only want to bask in the glory that is the Dave Mason Band, as they were truly as good as it gets…

<Rant>

As you already know, last night turned into YAAWTEW (Yet Another All’s Well That Ends Well) evening. While I can’t complain about the end, and therefore the experience in its entirety, there is plenty to complain about along the way. 🙁

I had never heard of Blend before. They use at least two separate tickets agents, TicketWeb and Ticketmaster. I have accounts with both, and one of them must have shared my email with Blend. I don’t mind that. A month ago, I got an email from Blend promoting a specific show. I never heard of the band, and I didn’t particularly care to discover them (we have an insane schedule as it stands).

But, I quickly scoured the list of upcoming acts, and noticed that Dave Mason was playing there on March 6th, 2008! Wow, I thought that it would be cool if we could swing it. Unfortunately, at first blush, it wasn’t looking all that likely. We were scheduled to be in VA that day. It was also likely that we would be heading home that day, but I couldn’t be sure a month in advance, so I sat on the email, but left it visible in my inbox to annoyingly remind me each day.

After two weeks, we were about to leave for VA, and I realized that if we wanted to do it, we could swing it. I asked Lois. As noted above, she wasn’t really familiar with Dave’s music, but she’s a genius, and realized that I was more excited than a casual “Hey, do you want to see some band I used to listen to?”

She encouraged me to get tickets. As I noted in my recent post on Dan Tyminski Band at the Birchmere Theater, I get nervous going to new venues, in particular when they are first-come first-served type of places. If you read that post (or have ever been to a show at Birchmere!), then you know that my fears regarding Birchmere were 100% unfounded, as the place is nearly perfect in all respects!

What’s the opposite of Birchmere? Blend! 🙁

We called two weeks in advance, to ask some standard questions (OK, Lois called, at my request, to get my standard questions answered). 😉 She asked if they serve dinner, they said yes. She asked if it was in the room where the show was held, they said yes, but that they also serve dinner in a more formal dining room. Lois asked again (I heard it with my own ears!) whether we could eat in our seats in the theater where the show would be, and again, she was told yes.

She was told that the doors open at 7pm for the show. The rest of the rooms (bar and restaurant) open closer to 4pm I think, so if we showed up really early, we could eat first I think. But, we were planning on leaving from Zope, so we would be driving straight from VA, and likely getting there at around 6:30pm.

For many reasons, we decided to leave on Wed from VA and head home. We got out later than we had planned, and arrived home at 10pm. We worked all day and left for the show at around 5:45pm. We got to Blend at 6:25. I dropped Lois at the door so that she could pick up our tickets (they were held at Will Call) and get on line for the 7pm opening.

After circling to find parking, I walked in the front door at 6:35. Lois was nowhere to be found. I had to wait for a number of people to be seated in the restaurant (including Jay Gold, if you know who that is!). Then I got to ask about Lois. They had no idea who I was talking about, but told me I was welcome to walk around and look for her…

I did, and I spotted her in the restaurant sitting alone at a table. I was surprised, to say the least. She told me that they informed her at the door that they would not be serving in the show room. It was now 6:45. We were more interested in good seats than in dinner, but I was pretty hungry nonetheless. When the waitress came by to ask if we wanted drinks, we told her that we were still trying to decide what to do.

We made one mistake which I am truly sorry for, and that is that we stood the entire time. While we weren’t directly in anyone’s way, the mere fact that we didn’t sit at our table was already a distraction to the rest of the diners. It also caused more of the staff to pay attention to us (which part of the reason why we didn’t sit).

Another hostess came over to ask what the problem was. We explained, and she asked “Who told you that they would serve dinner downstairs?”. Huh? So, either we’re liars, or you’re going to spank the person who gave us the bad information? Either way, you aren’t close to solving the problem. We explained our situation again, and she said she needed to check further and left.

A minute later, the manager came by. We explained (again). He said “Of course they are serving dinner downstairs, you’re welcome to just eat there!”. Lois was satisfied, but I said “Great, but that’s not what the hostess said.” Oh oh. You could see him turn white as a ghost, and he immediately backtracked and said “Uh, wait, let me check.”

He left, and Lois left with him. A few minutes later, a woman named Lori (sp?) came over to talk to me. She was marginally prickly, but I could understand, as we were borderline causing a scene (just from the traffic at our table). I explained our situation (again). She said that there was no food being served downstairs, but that occasionally, they do, when there is no separate seating and standing areas.

I told her that we called and asked specifically for this show and were told that they would be serving. Clearly, she thought I was lying. Again, wonderful customer service. Now it got weird…

I told her that all we cared about was getting good seats downstairs. I told her that my wife wasn’t really that hungry, and that she was willing to wait on the line for the doors to open at 7pm, and that I would order and eat here at the table, problem solved!

Amazingly, she says to me “What makes you think the doors open at 7pm? The doors open whenever the artist, in this case Dave, is in the mood to play!” Huh? Did the person we called also get that part wrong? Are the show times as listed on the site just guesses? If the artist wants to start playing at 6:30pm is that OK too, or just late starts are acceptable? This was getting surreal.

At that moment, Lois returned, in a reasonable huff. That was unfortunate, because Lori clearly had a hair trigger as well, and Lois was as close to that mood as possible. She told me to go with her, that indeed they were serving food downstairs. Lori lost her cool. She said “Maam, I’m the owner, and I’m telling you that they aren’t serving food downstairs!”. Lois said “I was just down there, and people are eating, and the bartender told me that I was welcome to come in and order!”

The fireworks started for real now. Lori called someone else over and told them to go downstairs and make sure the door was locked! Very nice touch! She then explained that the food was being served to the band, not the public. When Lois again said that the bartender told her she could come and eat, Lori said that we were welcome to eat standing at the bar, but not until the doors opened for the public, which would be very uncomfortable.

When she saw how amazed we were to be treated this way (by an owner no less!), she offered to refund our money. We politely declined. We walked out of the restaurant, and went around the corner to a Quiznos. This was my first time in one, and I had a very nice Mesquite Chicken sandwich on toasted whole wheat. We were back in the place by 7:05pm!

We went downstairs to pick up our tickets. There were already roughly 20 people ahead of us crowding the door (which was indeed locked!). We were given green paper wristbands, signifying that we had seats (not specific ones, just that we were allowed to sit in a chair). Standing room only people had orange paper wristbands. We were crowded in like cattle, in a tiny area, waiting for the doors to open. People were piling down the stairs to get on the line. This couldn’t end well…

It got extremely hot down there. Lori showed up and announced that she would turn off the heat, and I think she did, but it didn’t get cool, it just stopped getting hotter. The doors didn’t open until nearly 7:35pm.

When we walked in, we saw that there were roughly eight or nine rows of chairs tightly packed together, and then open space from the last row to the door. We could have gotten aisle seats in the first few rows, but I grabbed two seats in the fourth row, dead center. So far, so good. The seats were hard plastic, and were reasonably uncomfortable to sit on for hours, but that was hardly the low point in the evening.

The temperature in the room was close to absolute zero! While I only had a T-Shirt on, I also (cleverly) declined to check my coat in the sauna area, so I was able to get comfortable quickly. A number of people commented to me that I was indeed a very smart guy to bring a parka-like coat to the show. 😉 Over the course of the evening, it got marginally warmer. I never took my coat off, but during the encore, I was mildly on the warm side…

So, I was prepared for the show to start late, after all, nothing in this place was as advertised, so why would I expect 8pm to be a firm time. A little to my surprise, someone came on the stage at 8:09, perhaps to announce Dave?

Nope. The person came on to announce an unlisted warm-up group. Well, group is a stretch. Two people, both locals that play in the upstairs bar at least twice a month. Nikki Armstrong and Dave Fields. Nikki is a blues singer, and Dave is blues singer/guitarist/producer.

Dave’s guitar (an acoustic one) wasn’t mic’ed correctly, so that delayed the show. While they were trying to sort that out, Nikki was freezing on the stage, and she was wearing a coat! They gave up (thankfully, reasonably quickly) and Dave switched to an electric guitar, which worked.

As I’ve mentioned before, not communicating effective and correctly with your customers is not a great strategy. These people were not listed on the site. Aside from the surprise angle, their music wasn’t a great match for an act like Dave either.

They played six songs. Most of the people that were seated were polite. We were quiet during the songs, and clapped after each one. The people who were standing completely ignored Nikki and Dave. They couldn’t have talked louder if you egged them on to try. Honestly, I can’t even blame them. No one came to see them, and there was nothing about their music which was compelling enough to grab our attention.

Basically, they have some talent (certainly tons more than I have, so who am I to talk?). But, they are more like a lounge act (in my opinion), that is expected to be there in the background, for some people to focus on a bit here and a bit there, but for others to continue to converse while the background music fills the room.

Dave plays the guitar respectably, but considering the string of simply amazing guitarists that we’ve seen in the past six months (Bill Cooley, Joe Don Rooney, Keith Urban, Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour, Craig D’Andrea, etc. – all linked in the tags section of the post), it was a disappointment.

In general, it was a time-waster and a disappointment. Of course, at that point, we were wondering whether this was just par for the course for Blend, and whether we should have taken the refund. The show was sold out, so offering us the refund wasn’t all that generous (it certainly was offered with derision, not apology), because Lori could have sold those tickets five seconds later.

They left the stage at 8:45pm. I assumed that Dave would be on at 9pm. All of the equipment was already fully set up. Wrong again. They came on the stage at 9:12pm.

You already know that from that second onwards, it was a perfect evening. Of course, we didn’t get home until 11:30pm (yup, we’re old folk, so that’s late), when we could have been home by 10:30 if they had put Dave on at 8pm…

The only good news (not counting the concert itself) about Blend is that they didn’t get a dime of our money, even though we started out wanting to support the place. We wanted to have dinner there, but I ended up eating at Quiznos. I wanted to drink there, but ended up happily passing (even though waitresses were serving people drinks from the bar at the seats). I simply was happy not to give them any more of my money, even if it meant missing out on a chocolate martini. 😉

</rant>