After the Banjo Jim's concert, I was giving Chris Denny and his fiancee MC a preview of what it would be like to play at Bar Nine. "There'll be a lot of people talking and a lot more people yelling to be heard over the people talking, and then when you finish your song you'll get a polite clap or two and then everybody will go back to yelling at everybody else until you finish your next song. People getting drunk, guys trying to pick up girls, a crowd that gets bigger and louder as the night goes on -- typical Thursday night in Midtown." Chris looked at me and said, "You've been to Little Rock?" I shook my head. "Because there's a bar called Midtown that's just like that." I laughed and said, "Well, here in New York, we have a whole ten block radius that's just like that."
Since I always try to be early, I get to Bar Nine at 8:40 or so for the 9PM start. Silly me. The only person there is Janine, who comes in from Philadelphia now and then. DJ shows up pretty much at the announced start time, then KP, then there's a whole flood of people, none of whom are the actual performers. The place is pretty packed by the time they get there at 9:15, and it only gets more packed as the night goes on. If this was a concert crowd we'd be in for a great time. But it's a Thursday-night-in-Midtown crowd, so those of us who are into the music worm our way to the front of the pack as the show starts.
Even though I’m five feet away from the stage, I can’t understand a word Mike says when he speaks between songs. Matt seems very do-it-and-get-off, saying “Thank you” and backing up a millisecond after he finishes his numbers, like a man who expects no response at all. Chris starts out with a shirt under his overalls but it’s so hot he says to hell with it, takes the shirt off, and plays bare-chested. Directly in front of Mike, there’s a blonde necking with her boyfriend, and all I want to do is yell “Get a room!”
But a funny thing happens. The louder the audience gets, the better the guys play. And the more they play with each other. Yeah, they're playing in front of an audience, but they're not playing for the audience--they’re playing for themselves, and the concentration required to block out the pick-up bar shouting results in a great concert because they're listening to each other instead of trying to get a bunch of loud drunks to listen to them..
Some of the people who were listening: (from right to left) Abe Bradshaw, DJ Fuller, and Janine Bacchi. The guy to Janine's right is some guy she told five times she was from Philadelphia, before he staggered off to look up where it was in his Blackberry.
The last number is a group performance of "The Weight," with Matt doing the Rick Danko part. Believe it or not, even though four-fifths of the people in the bar didn't seem to be listening to the show at all? This is the one that had the most CD's sold.