Play it again, Sam
By: Dick Hodgetts
Those famous lines from the movie Casablana resonate now in Madison. We have our own piano bar every Friday night at Perk Avenue. Our favorite bon vivant : Jerry Caldwell encouraged Jolene Stewart to try something unique, he was confident enough good piano talent was available to have a variety of performing musicians who could add to the local live music scene. So far he has been right on the money.
If you have been around Jolene long enough you know that she is going to make anything with her name on it truly special. So, she buys a piano, has it tuned properly, and develops a new Friday evening menu of truly tempting choices. ‘Tapas’ she calls them, and they change each week along with the piano talent.
Who has played? And what is their style? Let me name a few and attempt to describe their artistry in just a few words: Peyson Moss (Vibrant Energy), Beth Unger (Simply a sweet sound), Donna Crouch (Delightfully Emotional), Al Santoro (Worldly Talented), Devereaux McClatchey (Piano Red Honky Tonk), Elsie Monk (Perky & Expressive), and Rebecca Bonas (Accomplished & Stylish).
My apologies to these talented musicians who would properly retort: you cannot sum up good music in two or three words. Right they are. You have to hear it for yourself.
You don’t need a reservation, in fact one of the great aspects is that when you come downtown on Friday night you can make this a destination, or if you exit the Cultural Center, Town Park, the Madison Convention Center, or one of our nice restaurants, just pop in for an entertaining end to the evening. You will find lots of your friends and neighbors. And, everyone is having fun.
One of the unintended consequences has been the arrival of so many singles. No one need stay at home in Madison on Friday nights anymore. If Perk Avenue looks crowded, just sit down at a table for six or eight and meet new folks. It is casual, it is fun, it is different, and the menu has choices from the wine, to the green beginnings, to the easy-listening comfort foods, to small sweet finishes. And, know that the portions are perfectly sized. It is alright to just join the audience if you have eaten elsewhere. But, if you don’t have dinner plans, Perk Ave is no longer your Mother’s Coffee House.
Allow me to list some of the choices: Shrimp Kabobs, Pork Sliders, Prosciutto Melon Wrap, the Best Bruschetta, the Mediterranean Platter, Fudge Macaroons, Fruits of the Heartland, Shrimp ‘n’ Grits, all recent offerings. Now, I may be sorta new in town, but how does a girl from Possum Holler develop a menu like that? Someone told me on good faith that she is attempting to serve Armadillo and call it: Possum on the half shell. If she does, I am sure it will be delightful.
But, back to the talent: There is no cover charge, but a tip jar is on the piano. Tipping is optional, but toe-tapping does become contagious. If you did not recognize all the artists to date, it is partly because talent from all over north Georgia has heard about this unique piano bar, and are lining up to play in front of a discriminating crowd. But, the variety of styles and talent level of our local pianists has been an eye opener. When you drive about town and don’t see anyone working in their yard, it’s a good bet they are practicing the piano and waiting their turn to wow the Friday night crowd at Perk Avenue.
And, if a featured artist fails to show, we have our own Jerry Caldwell who will answer the call for the missing pianist. His lovely wife, Margaret, has to tend the yard, as he is secretly practicing, and hoping for a “no-show” so that he can entertain us all. And, wow us he will.
What fun! And, what a great taste. And, did I forget to mention, it’s every Friday night 6:00-9:00 p.m. If you are sitting at home on Friday nights, you only have yourself to blame; and you don’t know what you are missing in great tastes, good music, and fellowship with similar folk.
Contributing to this column: Gloria Sthulmiller, and Babs Johnston. All errors are the responsibility of the author.