Last night we drove in to Somerville to see the Hot Club of Cowtown play at Johnny D's.
Back in the day, I went to Johnny D's fairly frequently, between the weekly swing dances with Jump Crew and the occasional local folk act. But the swing dances must have ended at least 3 or 4 years ago and since we don't kick around the Davis Square area much since the SOOTTAD moved out to the 'ham, I don't really go to Johnny D's much these days.
The place is split in two the long way, with the bar on one side and the dining area and stage on the other. There's a small dance floor too, which had tables when we arrived, but which were cleared away by the time the Hot Club took the stage. The only problem I have with the place as a music venue is that the only way to reserve seats is to make dinner reservations. And frankly, the food is generally less than stellar.
They often have things that sound pretty good, but invariably, the reality never lives up to the hype. This is the place where I learned to never order something when the only response to "Is it any good?" is "It's very popular." I bought the line with their fried chicken, and frankly, it sucked. (I must be a fussy eater.) Your basic bar food is probably your best bet, but it's often unnecessarily foofed up. And of course there was the time a friend met me there for dinner and a show and ended up spending most of the evening in the bathroom because she got food poisoning.
But despite all that, I generally like the place as a music venue. I'm not exactly sure why. I suppose it's because it's small enough that the performances feel more personal -- it is basically a bar, after all -- but it's big enough to get a good crowd, and they often have space to dance.
So last night, even though we couldn't get reservations for a table, we managed to snag seats at the bar. The SOOTTAD got the quesadilla -- the *ahem* Garlic Spinach, Mozzarella, and Goat Cheese Quesadilla served with artichoke pesto. Right. Other than the artichoke pesto being more or less superfluous to the dish, she found it quite acceptable. Tasty, even. I opted for the veggie burger and fries. I err on the side of caution. The burger was fine (I avoid their regular burgers because they're just too damn thick and end up cooked unevenly), and the battered fries that came with were actually alright.
The opener (a threesome of banjo, guitar and upright bass from North Carolina) was pretty good. Their first few songs were fun, but they ended up fading into the background as we talked with the friends that started drifting in for the show.
It was a different story when Hot Club started their first set. I was never cut out for the music review gig, so I'll try to keep it simple. They were awesome -- fun, lots of energy, and, of course, great music. We got some dancing in and generally had a grand old time. Two sets and an encore. Some of the high points for me:
- "Dinah" A great version of the song that Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli made famous with the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. A nice touch.
- "Orange Blossom Special" There are plenty of cool tunes that have a train motif, but it really felt like the train was running through the club -- and they're only playing a fiddle, a guitar and an upright bass.
- The pussycat song. Hi-larious. Innocent, and yet... heh.
Also amusing: they mentioned offhand that they were going to be performing in Annapolis the next night (tonight). I shot an email off to Dr.J this morning and I think she should be heading home from the show as I write this. It's nice to be able to spread the love.