Rubbing Elbows with The High Life @ Joe’s Pub

29 Oct

There is a Light That Never Goes Out

Tonight, I witnessed my first concert at the famous Joe’s Pub in downtown Manhattan.

Headlining the evening’s bill was a pseudo lounge-rock act called The Undisputed Heavyweights. Fronted by their boyishly energetic, effortlessly charming singer Casey Shea, the group’s stage persona was a mix of jazz professionalism and zen-like tolerance, continuously interrupted by Shey’s Tasmanian outbursts and stage theatrics.

If  Mick Jagger and Joe Cocker somehow birthed a child with mild-to-rampant ADD, that child would probably be best friends with Casey Shea.

One of the barbacks working the show happened to be a friend of mine. Intending only to grab a quick beer and say hi, after stepping through the lobby’s double doors, he offered to put myself and a friend on the list for the night’s show. I’d heard fairly raving reviews about the band’s imploding stage shows and after a quick pow-wow, my friend and I decided to make Joe’s Pub the final destination to an aimless walk around the city.

The show room at Joe’s Pub is a visual playground. Marble fixtures climb towards a high ceiling, illuminated by candles cleverly tucked into adjoining walls. Two great columns divide a spacious dining and listening area, overlooked by a long, glowing bar and a towering wall of tilted mirrors. The room is bathed in blues and reds from lights hanging above a corner stage. The effect accurately places you in a snapshot of how one might imagine an upscale, swanky jazz joint to look in the 1950s.

While ushering my friend Francisco around the bar, I bumped into some friends I knew from work drinking in a securely roped-off section of the room marked “Reserved”.

My day job consists of, among other managerial tasks, booking talent for a small rock club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. These people were some of the musicians I’d had the pleasure to know and book over the last year and a half.

Tony Maceli, a bassist in a number of jazz bands across the city, invited me to come hang in the VIP section of the bar. He gently unclipped the velvet rope, pulled it back, and ushered me in.

Now, I should make it clear that this stuff does not happen in my life very often. I am not a power player in Manhattan. The mention of my name does not invite visible fear into the hearts of BMG music moguls. The establishment I work for does well, but it’s a small fish compared to the big kahuna that is Joe’s Pub. It’s not everyday that I’m given an opportunity to look exceptionally cool in front of a close friend, twice no less — first with our free admittance and now our up-coming VIP treatment — and I planned to take full advantage of the situation.

The group in this small enclave consisted of the significant others and close friends of the band performing. As I watched Casey Shea, the band’s singer, accost the crowd — “We came all the way down from Maine to play some rock muuuusic for you all tonight! Can I hear an Amen!” — I gazed around at my neighbors. These were all New Yorkers, schooled in the art of jazz and, it seemed, born with a genetic knack for acting cool. Sipping from tumblers of scotch, chatting with the stunning blond who used to date one of The Strokes, these people were with the band. I on the other hand was a visitor, an observer sent from Upstate New York Weekly. My purpose, it felt like, was merely to gaze upon the lifestyles of the Big Apple’s up and coming songsters, learn, and possibly assimilate.

A gorgeous waitress, comfortably wrapped in a black cocktail dress, entered our section, asking if she could grab anyone a drink. In the hurry to down some social lubricant, I was all too happy to fork over $10 for a gin and tonic. What arrived, glistening deceptively in a stout glass, tasted like filtered water with a hint of lime. The supposed gin in my tumbler may have been distributed with an eyedropper, but who cares, I thought. This was the life (right?), and I was damned if I wasn’t going to live it.

Upon taking the drink from the waitress’s perfectly tanned hands, I somehow managed to knock one of my lime wedges off the lip of my glass. It landed directly underneath the ass of the listener seated next to me. I can only assume that this man held a position as a senior talent scout for SONY. The lime wedge rested comfortably on the felt couch we shared, about a millimeter away from curiously staining this gentleman’s pants. For the next ten minutes, I agonized over what to do. Reach down and pluck the rogue lime, only to accidentally graze this man’s buttocks with a finger, leading to the explanation “I was going for my lime. Honest!” or a tap on the shoulder resulting in the words, “My lime is underneath your pants.” If I had more guts, I would of opted for the second, but after thinking about the situation for the better part of a song, I decided to let fate handle it. If this man happened to shift his position during the set, suddenly detecting a breeze of citrus in the air only to feel a dampness creeping across his trousers, I’d feign ignorance.

Halfway through the show, I looking over at Francisco. Dressed in a wrinkled white t-shirt and beige cargo pants, he reclined next to a striking blond, barely dressed in an expensive-looking green dress. His face glowed from the light of his cell phone. Completely oblivious to the future wife of a doctor seated next to him, his fingers poked at his mobile, texting a friend who lived in queens, while the blond grew visible more bored.

Obviously we did not belong here.

Joe’s Pub hosts at least two separate shows a night. After the band finished their set , the room lights came up, indicating to everyone that it was time to collect our things. We sat around for a while, making friendly conversation about upcoming shows at my club and who was playing where this week around the city. Cheeks were kissed and hands purposfully shook, and then we left. While stepping out of our privileged section, Francisco’s foot snagged on the velvet rope, and he nearly toppled head first in to the horn section of the night’s following salsa band.

Walking towards the exit, I noticed the musicians we’d sat with gathering backstage to hang with the Heavyweights. For a moment, I debated sneaking my friend and I past the light security guarding the backstage entrance, but I think we both felt one bobble-footed step toward the high life was enough for the evening.

Striding confidently onto the sidewalk, light headed from a proximity high, we headed with the traffic downtown, eager to see where New York’s nightlife might take us next.

~Zachary Dinerstein

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2 Responses to “Rubbing Elbows with The High Life @ Joe’s Pub”

  1. Jess January 9, 2009 at 12:57 am #

    Au contraire – tripping over red ropes? Always cool.

  2. Spud April 19, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    I disagree as well. You ARE a power-player, oh Mayor of Williamsburg.

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