At 151, the restaurant-bar on Lafayette Street, we met and hugged friends, we heard live music, we enjoyed food and drinks.
151 sits two blocks north of long-gone St. Joseph’s, middle school for my brother Jim and me, and next door to Great Flats Brewery; these two new-ish businesses sharing what once was a tire store. A high-tech box of dark metal, 151 invites folks, most in shorts and Ts that night, to dine in a dark tables-and-chairs area, get drinks at a long rectangular bar and do both on a sun-bright two-level patio, partially under a translucent roof.
The Yankees played on one above-the-bar TV, the Mets on the other.
For Ellie, Zak, Lea – the woman he just started seeing – and me, just being in a bar brought a cozy feeling of connection we had long missed.
In the corner of the upper patio, instruments awaited players; we found those guys at the bar.
The electric bass on the bandstand was Dave Parillo’s, Zak’s friend since pre-school at Brown School when it was still on Rugby Road. Boston-based Dave was there to play with friends from Niskayuna High School and Ithaca College. Their quartet Comrad had practiced together online until recent all-vaccinated rehearsals in Brooklyn where most of them live.
Dave’s parents Jack and Cindy soon joined us at a front table that the owner, also a Niskayuna grad, reserved for family. They’d driven in from their farm in Buskirk near Bennington, and brought Dave’s sister Elizabeth who’d flown in from Bozeman for her brother’s gig.
At our table in bright sunlight – now, that didn’t feel exactly normal – we ordered drinks and pub-food dinners. The place was hopping but efficient. People kept coming in, being seated and served.
No notebook, no camera; I was off-duty; and the music was maybe even more fun for the players than for us. I was SO far off-duty, I never bothered name-checking the guys (besides Dave), never jotted down a song title or who soloed; no notes on tempos or arrangements, themes in the lyrics.
They played without looking at their hands, everybody was off the book.
Band-mates since grade school, Dave and the drummer built the beat of straightforward materials. Singer-songwriter Arthur, who wrote their songs, wielded the words and minded the mood, also a keyboard and most lead vocals. The guitarist played colors, cool solos and bright bridges. They were unified, the groove rocked. Lots of tunes moved at waltz-time, but rather than being confined within three-beats, they took off at times. If all this could be dubbed shoe-gaze, those feet moved.
Apart from the refreshed and refreshing novelty of simply being with other humans, longtime friends and strangers alike, the main delight of the evening was watching Dave – remember, we’ve known him since he was three – enjoy making music with his friends, as we listened with our friends.
Looking around the place, I saw few masks – which felt unnerving at first; then, normal. Or at least normal in Schenectady where and when most are vaccinated against the-damn-plague.
We earned that delicious night in the sun, in the bar, in the music, in the company of friends.