Onstage, The Red 100's are chaos incarnate in the best way. On this particular night, Raul Mercado was having enough guitar problems to be in Stoogeaphilia or something: his cord failed on the first song, which necessitated some quick troubleshooting while Robbie D. Love and Kyle Scheumach held the groove down. These boys might be rough, with a riddimic sense that threatens to come careening off the rails at times, but they're stone pros in the "show must go on" sense. Later on, Raul had to swap out guitars mid-song, after which the 60 cycle hum from his (possibly ungrounded?) single-coils was almost like a fourth instrument in the mix.
Robbie D. Love likes climbing up on/jumping off of stuff more than any muso I've seen since the Immortal Lee County Killers' Chet Weise. Also during the first song, he was balancing precariously atop his guitar amp (which he had on its side, presumably for more height) when it toppled over. Again, the boys didn't miss a beat, even though Robbie's plastic Viking helmet lost a horn.
And Raul's stiff-limbed robot dance resembles someone in the throes of a seizure. It's the same impulse that made Pete Townshend use strings as heavy as bridge cables on his SGs, and kick Abbie Hoffman off the stage at Woodstock, or the reason why I feel like I've been thrown down a flight of stairs the morning after I play a Stoogeshow. In case you hadn't figured it out, I think these boys are out to lunch: same place I eat at. I was sorry (but not surprised) to hear that they'll be moving to Austin soon, but Kyle assured me that they'll be back. We live in hope.
The next night, we ate dinner at Ray's Prime Steak & Seafood, a recently expanded West Side spot located across Camp Bowie Blvd from the Ridglea Theater at 3206 Winthrop -- the first street I ever lived on in the Fort, although my crappy apartment was south of Camp Bowie, in the shadow of Ridglea Bank. It was the inaugural night of Johnny Case's new gig in Ray's new piano bar, with Johnny still utilizing the Yamaha grand that Sardines owner Sal Matarese donated to him for his 28 years' faithful service there.
Ray's is a definite step up from Sardines, a beautifully appointed room (lots of dark wood paneling) with a clientele that _dresses_ for dinner. While the menu is a tad pricier than Sardines', it's still possible to get an entree for under $20 (I had a nicely smokey duck l'orange on a bed of spinach and mashed potatoes, while my sweetie chose the wonderfully creamy lobster ravioli, each $17), while the above-average calamari appetizer was a ten spot.
We were happy to see Mark, a favorite Sardines waiter, was on the staff, and the service was prompt and attentive, but had a totally different vibe than the young, high-energy crew that made Sardines in its heyday such a popular date spot (we ate there with my family the night we were married).
Johnny's still waiting to find out the configuration of the combos he'll be using on weekends, and suspects that any straight-ahead jazz playing he wants to do, going forward, will have to be at Arts Fifth Avenue. While we had to suppress the urge to applaud when he finished a number -- it's not exactly a listening crowd -- it's a great place for Johnny to have landed, and we hope he has many more good years there.