|L to R: Club Wood, 9 Iron, Wedge, Putter.|
So! After Le Cure wowed us with a Plainsong, we saw the Last Dance, went down Fascination Street, and were Gone! (A few sly Cure references for you dancing goth girls back at LBG. You know who you are. Call me.)
We meandered over to The Arcade Bar, where there was no cover and Dixie-jazzy-blues band Club Wood was playing. Actually, according to the whiteboard near the door, they were billed as "Johnny Tone & Club Wood," naming the guitarist and singer (and, one assumes, driving force) of the band. But the group itself is named after the drummer, Mike Wood. And that just about exhausts that subject.
We haven't blogged about The Arcade Bar before, so here are some impressions. First, we had to literally walk right through the band to enter the place. (That's the entrance, behind the saxophonist, in the photo above.) It's a small place and there's no other place to play, but it seemed a little bit disrespectful somehow.
Second, there was a mild but distinct odor of pee in the place. Oddly, this odor was not to be found in the shiny-clean bathroom.
Third, there was free popcorn for all, and the bartender gave us some bar mix on request. That's a plus, right? Probably it was clean.
As for the music: there were less than thirty people in attendance. Most of the people watching were in the back nine age-wise, but there were several young faces as well.
Club Wood is one of those unclassifiable acts in terms of genre. They were playing smooth jazz with a definite Dixieland, New Orleans tinge while we were there; but they gave constant hints that they might be equally at home in several other genres. There were hints of pop and blues in every song, and at one point they played an Amy Winehouse cover, transformed into a jazzy, slow torch number. It wasn't even "neo-swing," which evokes more raucous acts like The Squirrel Nut Zippers, which Club wood sounded nothing like; mostly what they came off as, really, was a jazz band steeped in blues and AOR.
With their Mad Hatter hats and fun, hipster stage presence (at one point Tone playfully admonished the audience, "That song is over, so you should clap. That's how it works. We work, you applaud"), they seemed fit for bigger venues, where they might really unleash the genre-spanning energy that seemed to be wanting to get out as they sat and played New Orleans jazz repertoire. They would do well among a younger crowd, especially if they grew ironic mustaches.
In sum: They are clearly very talented musicians. We enjoyed their jazzy riffs and the knowing, winking connection Tone forged with his sparse audience. We were not as entertained when they slowed things down and played more romantic material. To us, the reason you see a throwback band like this is the same reason you see a cover band, or listen to the radio: to be energized, and surprised, by the familiar. "Oh, they played that song! I love that one!" or "That's a fresh spin on an old sound!" Bands like this are musical parties, there primarily to galvanize rather than evoke mood. The slow soft stuff tends to be appealing only to the die-hard fan of the act or genre in question. Of course, your mileage may vary.