It’s another Friday afternoon at Cafe Nine, where the beer is cold, the pizza is hot, and everyone but me knows the two guys setting up gear on stage.
In the distance, there’s a heated discussion about Javier Colon, winner of season one of The Voice. It’s possible that he’s here — also possible that he’s not — and in any case, in the 90 minutes I’m here, he doesn’t leap on-stage with a guitar. In a bar where almost everyone’s a musician, if you’re not playing right this instant, you’re a private citizen and can eat your free pizza in peace.
The afternoon’s free entertainment is blues-folk singer Lynn Malavolti as part of what she calls the Still Guessing Two Trio. The other two in the trio are Peter Menta, a.k.a. Washboard Slim, and a bass player whose first name I caught as “Eric,” so I’m guessing Eric Levenson. . . and this show, in a bar where everyone’s known everyone else for forty years or since birth, is the most out-of-my-depth I’ve felt yet in the Connecticut music scene. The in-jokes have in-jokes. The nicknames date to incidents before I was born.
Music makes everyone at home. “Angel from Montgomery” goes straight to the heart, and this cover version is rough and real and charming and hopeful. (It’s also partial, with bar noise.)
“Brand New Key” features Washboard Slim on… washboard. If I hadn’t been sniffling and snuffling (every germ in Connecticut has my address), I’d like to have thought up some trenchant washboard-playing questions and asked them. Just watch him. Look what you can do with a washboard and contemplate how drummers who gripe about acoustic cajon gigs should maybe think about pioneering modern-rock washboard.