So just about every weekend for the last eight years I’ve been happily ensconced and grateful for my regular mornings at the Daily Brew Café in Cataumet here on Cape Cod. I’ve mentioned this place numerous times in this space but as I was driving home from my regular Sunday gig today I was reflecting on just why playing there has been such a joy. Some of these incidents I’ve mentioned in this space before, so if you’re a long-time reader please forgive me.
I have many wonderful memories of playing at the Brew. I’ve been there long enough that I’ve actually watched some of the kids of regulars all but grow up; this is very gratifying. Getting to know new people, both off-Cape visitors in the summer and the regulars who frequent the place in the off season has been just great.
For example, at the beginning of my tenure there was a young family that came in regularly with a toddler son. He was always enthralled with the music (as almost all kids are!) and when he reached the age of about four his parents bought him a ukulele for Christmas. He was very excited to show me it and I suggested he bring it the next time they came in. Sure enough, he did, and although he really didn’t know how to play it, he could “play” it, if you get my drift. I plopped him on a stool beside me and we wailed away on “The Wheels on the Bus” to his heart’s content. He loved it, his parents loved it, and all the patrons thought it was just about the cutest thing ever. I haven’t seen them in a while, they may have moved away, but I’m betting he is still having fun with that uke or maybe even a guitar!
On the other end of the age spectrum was an older lady who used to come in frequently. One day she approached me and said, “You know, I used to perform too!” She pulled an old black and white photo from the 1950s of herself in full cowgirl regalia, holding a very nice Gibson F-hole guitar. She explained that she toured all over the mid-West and the South for many years, complete with a stage name (something cowgirl oriented, but I forget….). She complimented me on my playing and said she still had her old outfits – and that old Gibson – but would never, ever part with either. I asked her to bring the guitar in for me to see and play and she agreed but she has yet to do so. I hope she does.
Another time a couple slightly younger than myself came in, listened intently and clapped after every song, something that doesn’t happen all that often as my function at the Brew is to provide pleasing background music (which I’m fine with, for the record). When it was time for me to take a break they told me how much they’d enjoyed my playing and the man introduced himself. It turned out he was a pretty well know acoustic rocker from southern New Hampshire who was visiting the Cape. I knew him by name and reputation but had to confess I had never heard him play. He then said the nicest thing: You know, he said, I can bang out songs all night long but I could never carry two sets of all-instrumentals like you do. Great job!
This was very gratifying, to say the least. He does play on the Cape on rare occasions and one of these days I’ll catch his act.
Actually, he kind of caught me off guard as I can almost always pick out guitar players who are listening to me. They have…..that look. Usually they are very complimentary, sometimes they don’t say anything, and I have to admit that sometimes (and I include a couple locals in this) I know they’re thinking something along the lines of: N’eh, he’s not so good. I could do that.
I got over being annoyed with that long ago because quite frankly, I’ve got a gig. And they don’t. End of story.
Sometimes I’ve misread those types, however. Not long ago a guy came in by himself and stayed for quite a while, studying my playing carefully but with something akin to a sneer on his face. Hoo boy, I thought. At least he bought some coffee and a sandwich so I fulfilled my part of the deal. But when I took a break he came up and said:
“That was really good. I mean it. I think you’re a really good guitar player.” I thanked him sincerely. But the strange part was, that sneer never left his face. Go figure. I haven’t seen him again however.
Another really great aspect of playing at the Daily Brew has been getting to know quite a few of the local musicians that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s because I just don’t frequent the bars that have live music as I once did. But there is a small but very active bunch of players in the area who frequent the Brew and I’ve actually played with a few of them a couple times in the last year or so. They are good, solid players and just love doing it and that’s good enough for me. I really like playing with them and hope to do more of that over the winter when playing music in someone’s living room and downing a beer or two can help us all get through the long Cape Cod winter. If not for the Brew, I might never have met them.
But the best part of playing at the Daily Brew is their wonderful staff and especially the owner, Kathy Hickey. Kathy runs a tight ship and she hires great people. She also has a deep love of many kinds of music (she’s a terrific singer herself, although she’s reticent to admit it for some reason!) and a sincere respect for ALL musicians, something that is sorely lacking in most restaurant and bar owners. She took a chance on me in the beginning when I was determined to develop a solid play list of instrumentals and it took a year or so craft some dependable set lists. I had always depended upon singing with the acoustic or playing lead and rhythm electric in the bands over the years. The result is – and I’m not bragging here, really, but – I know I’m playing better now than I have in my entire guitar playing life. And I have the steady gig at the Daily Brew (and Kathy Hickey) to thank for that.
So as we approach the Christmas season and I begin throwing some seasonal songs into my set lists, if you’re anywhere near Upper Cape Cod, do stop in at the Daily Brew on Route 28A in Cataumet. If you can come by on some Sunday morning you’ll hear me. Other times you just may find me sitting at a table with a friend or two, eating wonderful treats I should not be eating and drinking the BEST coffee around. In any case, I promise you’ll be glad you did.
I am very fortunate and grateful.
Peace & good music,