A couple weeks ago, I wrote about dead Mondays, and in doing so I caught some flak for what was perceived as a slight against VIP’s (“RIPs,” March 24). See, I went there on a Monday, and the place was empty except for some regulars, which I duly reported in print. I thought I was creating atmosphere, but I apparently hurt a lot of feelings. In light of that, allow me to clarify: I like VIP’s a lot.
It’s a great bar, and I like it for the same reasons that I like the Oui Lounge, The Poop Deck, and A Great Notion — they’re all friendly old dives where I feel instantly comfortable and can have a cocktail without Lil’ Wayne assaulting my ears. It just happened that VIP’s, while normally hopping, was just as slow on that Monday as every other place I stopped in on that night. Long story short: The bar is a fun place to be, it’s usually packed, and I’ve always had a good time there, though I have yet to encounter the alleged ghost and therefore feel a little left out.
On the other hand, I did get sort of spooked at Lola’s-Sixth recently. I’m no expert on the paranormal, but if I had to describe it, I’d say it was the reverberation of a powerful psychic entity, one cut short before its time. In short, it was the Spirit of the Jam.
As you may or may not know, prior to opening Lola’s-Sixth, owner Brian Forella had a legendary bar called The Wreck Room, and for a year or so, there was a weekly jam organized by local muso and all-around rad dude Lee Allen. On the few times I went, I heard a lot of standards I wished I knew how to play (“Maggot Brain,” “War Pigs”) and also caught a lot of improv. In short, I would’ve killed to have had the chops to hang with the dudes up there.
Of course, the Wreck is gone, its lovably dingy environs leveled and buried under the gleaming steel and glass of upscale retail and urban living spaces. If you’re new to the scene or just coming up, you may not know what you missed. But all is not lost — buy some beers for the people who were there, and they’ll tell you all about the past and how long gone it is. That last part especially applies if they’re musicians and they’re at Lola’s on a Wednesday, waiting in the wings to put their own stamp on a favorite song or pull a jam into new territory.
Last Wednesday was different, though. I saw the ghost of the past channeled in the jam of the present. What happened was basically this: Allen got a call from drummer Blaine Crews (The Campaign, The Orbans) asking if he and some friends could jam; at 10:30, Crews and a bunch of other local talents took the stage. By the end of the night, Allen himself was up there closing out the night.
It didn’t have the gleeful anarchy of the Wreck’s outbursts, but the jam on Wednesday was killer, even if only in its genesis — simply put, some dudes felt like playing, and that’s what they did. The crowd wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t small either, and I was stoked to see people who don’t often play together hit the stage and hash shit out. I don’t know if that session will turn into a regular thing, and, frankly, I like the idea of its happening only because some local musicians were bored and had a free night. I wish they’d taken some musical chances rather than fall back on the safety of tried-and-true crowd-pleasing covers –– if people hear of an all-star collaboration, I think they might be more likely to show up on a moment’s notice if their favorite players are going to make shit up that might be heard only once.
Potential moments of genius aside, I hope it happens again. And anyway, long live the Wreck, long live VIP’s, long live Lola’s, and, while we’re at it, long live whatever your favorite bar is. The best way to ensure those longevities is to show up and buy a beer. And who knows — if you see some people setting up amps, you might want to open a tab. When local musicians lock into a jam, you’re bound to see something worth telling the whippersnappers about when the world is paved over with commercial space, forever available for lease. –– Steve Steward
Contact Last Call at firstname.lastname@example.org.