Monday, January 18, 2010

Re-Claiming The Home of My Soul

When I was a teenager, I use to hang out at this spot called Augie's up on 105th street and Broadway. Augie's was a local dive bar where various jazz musicians would come out to jam and perform. Every night the place was packed and usually by 10pm there would be a crowd outside waiting to get in. Augie's was really small and really 'run down'. If it weren't for the live jazz, it would just be another 'hole in the wall' that served watered down drinks for cheap. Augie, himself use to sit at one of the tables and play chess with any of the patrons that challenged him. He had a warm soul and welcomed everyone that came through the door. Augie's was almost a New York City landmark when it was sold to another owner who renovated the space and changed the name to SMOKE. Though the new owners stayed true to the tradition of live jazz, the venue became a little more upscale and charged a pretty steep cover. This was about 10 years ago, and at the time I was devastated by the loss of my beloved Augie's, the playground for my teenaged soul and love of live music. I swore I would never be a patron of smoke. Over the years, whenever people asked me if I had ever been to smoke I would give them my whole rant about how smoke use to be a place called Augie's and it just wasn't the same... yada yada.

Well, a couple of days ago, a friend invited me out for drinks as he was entertaining guests from out of town. He explained that they had bought tickets to go check out a show at Smoke. Hmmm I thought. It had been over 10 years since Augie's had closed and Smoke was still standing strong. I loved Augie's because of the music, and if it was always about the music, than perhaps I owe it to myself to listen to some music at SMOKE. When I arrived, I realized that very little had changed, the venue was just a little bit cleaner, the drinks were a little bit stronger, and the stage was just a little bit higher. The energy, the vibe and over all feel of the place had pretty much stayed the same. As for the show, the older I get, the more I feel and the more I appreciate the integrity of true musicianship and the band that was booked for the night went above and beyond my highest expectations and standard for good music. I realized that one of the main issues I had with SMOKE over the past 10 years ago, was the $20-$40 cover charge. It almost makes me want to slap my own wrist! Supporting live music and real musicians is probably one of the few things that I should never mind spending my money on.

With that said, I am disappointed in myself for 'hating' on Smoke for all these years, but at the end of the day, it was really me who was missing out on some of the best stuff this city has to offer, some good, real, live music!