Dad's Rec Room.
Colorado Ski Lodge
Howard Johnson's Hotel Lobby, 1974
College Rathskellar, also 1974
These are a few of the ways the new interior of Sidewalk's backroom was described at its opening Wednesday. Yes, the music room does have quite a rustic feel to it now. The walls are lined with wide boards that evidently come from an old barn. And the rest of the decor has a rough hewn feel, almost like a self-conscious imitation of a country breakfast restaurant.
After all the anticipation the truth is, it really doesn't matter. The basic layout of the room is the same as it was. There are plenty of benches built in all around the walls, and tables in the center--just like the old days---plus a new stage that is bigger than the old one. As soon as the lights went down and Ben got up and started doing his schtick, it was just like Sidewalk as usual.
Although it felt like a regular open mic, it wasn't really because most of the acts in the early part of the evening had been selected by Ben to represent different eras of Sidewalk Cafe-dom. I don't know how I ended up first on the bill for the night except that I had a show scheduled for the next day--but I kicked things off with nervous renditions of a couple of my songs. There were too many others to go into lots of detail on them all, but the bill included folks like: Erin Regan, Howard Hughes, Phoebe Kreutz, Adam Green, Bible Gun, Debe Dalton, Steve Stavola, Brooke Pridmore, Sam Grossman, Prewar Yardsale, Bendix, Morgan Heringer, Dan Penta, Jon Berger, Dan and Rachel, Bernard King Presents, Elizabeth Devlin, Rav Shmuel, Charles Mansfield, Emily Hope Price, Albert Goold, Emily Einhorn, Rick Patrick, M. Lamar, Jim Flyn, JJ Hayes, Jen Kaplan. I left at 1 a.m., and I'm still trying to find out what Jason Trachtenberg did that got everyone so worked up at the end of the night (he arrived after I left).
I played a show on Thursday night and the best thing I can say about the sound system is that I didn't notice it. In other words of all the things I had to think about, whether I could hear myself on stage wasn't one of them. I think it will take some time to assess that new system but from what I can see so far, it's a big improvement over what was there previously. There's also a new lighting rig and all new lighting instruments. The thicket of random wires that used to snake around the ceiling is gone--as is the old disco light. The mirror ball remains. All the keys on the piano work and the music stand there is back.
The rest of the place has, of course, also been upgraded and although the main dining area wasn't yet open, the bar was going full tilt. I don't know how all the young, attractive folks hanging out there got the idea to come by on the first night, but the place was already busy.
I guess I'm kind of glad that the restaurant's decor--although definitely clean, modern and brushed up, features some odd and incongrous choices. It will carry on the tradition. After all, what the heck were those two large playing cards painted on the wall near the old entrance all about? And the random skeletons all over the place. Some day the new sliding barn door into the ladies room and the wine label wall paper in the bathrooms will stand out the same way.
All that said, Sidewalk's owners deserve credit for investing in their restaurant, including the back room. In general the spiffed up new joint is an improvement all around.
Congrats to Ben for keeping us all together over the last 5 months and for working on getting the back room up to speed. And to Brian for planning and installing the great new sound system. It was good to be back. It was good to see Ben behind the board and Debe in her rightful place. It was good to see Berger storming all over the stage and into the audience, and it was even good to face the wall while playing the piano. Our little clubhouse is up to speed again. See you there soon.
See you all at the Sidewalk.
Pictures to come....soon....