Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Once A King ....

It was a pleasure hanging out with my old friend Mark Gamsjager and his band The Lustre Kings at Matty T's this past Saturday night. It had been way too long since I had seen Mark and it was great to catch up, talk about the kids, and play some rock and roll music.

No matter what you think of Matty T's you have to admit that there is no place else like it - at least not for a few hundred miles. Maybe the vibe comes from the location which can best described as somewhere between desolate and creepy. Certainly the honky tonk hardwood floor and the split rail fence that surrounds it adds a bit of flavor, as does the washtubs behind the bar that hold that evening's beer specials. But it's the mix of people who show up that really make Matty's special. Well maybe not special, but definitely different. Ok, weird - but weird in a good way.

What a mix of people it is! There are the dancers, of course. This is their joint, their dance floor and rightfully so. Even within that group there are different flavors - you have your urban cowboys and cowgirls, doing it right from the heels of their boots to the tops of their Stetson's. Add to that a few biker types, a few soccer moms, a couple of guys who are barely out of their PJs and you have quite an eclectic bunch.

Then you have the folks who come down to see the bands, which in this case were people like my friends and you know what kind of people they are.

But the most confusing group are these younger guys and gals who look like this is the last place on earth they would want to be - yet there they are. Maybe they come for the $2 beers or perhaps they thought that Spike - the mechanical bull - was scheduled for that night. Who knows.

The Blaggards were first up and we did our thing, mostly without incident. I had forgotten to print out set lists and all we had was a printed email of the set. Since we are a bunch of vain bastards and don't wear our glasses on stage, none of us could read it, making for some comical moments. I also forgot to pull the capo off and started a song in the wrong key while the band scrambled - and quite adeptly made the change. The dancers came on and off the dance floor as they always do, depending on the BPM of the song. It's such a strange situation - you don't really want to cater to them, but you feel good when the dance floor is filled - that is until you realize that they are not really listening to the music, but counting the beats, most of them concentrating so hard on the steps and turns that they have this vacant look on their face making you feel as if you are playing to a bunch of carousel ponies spinning around, going up and down.

The Lustre Kings took the stage and rocked. Mark, as always, is a great entertainer and band leader - and a terrific guitar player no matter how he tries to downplay his talents. As always he surrounds himself with terrific musicians and pulls off the very rare feat of sounding both authentically rootsy and modern at the same time. The set included tunes from the band's latest CD including the great title track, "Way Out There."

The night ended with Mark bringing up guests including a surprise call to the bouncer who sang a couple of Elvis tunes - and did a great job. It was like old times - when Mark was living on Long Island, this was Saturday night - rockin' out at the PI or Costello's, passing around the Gretsch, taking turns at the mic, closing the joint down and heading to the nearest diner for cheeseburgers and french fries with gravy.

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