When Getting Shanked is Good
It’s Tuesday. Ever since I visited Shank’s Tavern in Marietta, PA for their Acoustic Open Mic night three weeks ago, I can’t get the night off my mind. It was as if someone waved a magic wand and said, “Presto! The perfect night of food, drinks and music awaits you.” I know tastes vary and beauty is subjective but folks, you need to check out Shank’s for yourselves. I’m now calling it my favorite place in Marietta.
For starters, there is plenty of free parking right outside the door. The historic architecture is complemented by cozy décor. It’s a grand building but only the horseshoe bar area and a small dining room were in use that night. There was a great dinner rush but the kitchen, bartenders and wait staff kept everyone happy and made it look easy. If you just want to drink, they offer dozens of tequilas, nearly one hundred craft beers and most anything else you could name. Everyone there was eating and nobody had to twist my arm. Tuesday means Asian specialties and the pho and spring rolls were perfection. The regular menu is unique and a different special is offered every night.
The music made the night. Guest host for the night Leo DiSanto opened with his partner Jeff Bryson; they regularly front The Vinegar Creek Constituency. Leo’s brother Nick joined them then played a few songs of his own on his one-man-band percussion rig. From there, the night became a veritable who’s who of musicians from the surrounding area. Corty Byron has returned to the area from a stint in CA. He joined forces with a percussionist and guitarist Chad Kinsey to perform The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and several originals. They set the bar high for musicianship and energy and set the tone for the night. Friends collaborated who rarely get to jam together and the audience cheered everyone heartily.
Matt Johnson (The Slackwater News) and Jeanette Stillman played tasty acoustic versions of several Slackwater tunes. Jordan Rast and Tuck Ryan (Second Hand Suits) stepped up to serenade the crowd with a few of their band’s tunes and a stellar version of an old Sam Cooke tune. These young men really know how to play to a crowd and everyone loved it. Several local session men (not to be named) showed off their wares playing unique, flavorful versions of some rock and folk standards. While the songs might have been old, their presentations proved that these guys still love to play and haven’t lost an inch of skill or creativity. The night took on the flavor of a family reunion; that is, if everyone in your family is a stringed-instrument virtuoso.
At least two artists showed up that night that nobody recognized but everyone welcomed. Samantha Danielson hails from the Harrisburg area. She has a great voice and can play the hell out of an acoustic guitar. She bailed shortly after her set before many folks got a chance to thank her and welcome her. Samantha, come back! Check in! You rock! Rockin’ Rob played some gritty, funny, “Told ya so” songs that got everybody hopping. We all hope he comes back as well.
Then Bjorn arrived. Bjorn Jacobsen fronts The Wayfarer Experiment, a Mount Joy based band that calls their style “dark folk gypsy blues.” You would think Norm had just walked into “Cheers” to hear the reception he got. Part of it was the fact that his whereabouts had been “parts unknown” for a few weeks. Another factor is the band’s growing reputation for showing up with a varied lineup and shredding strings and blowing minds. On this night, Bjorn sang, Nate Arndt played guitar and Alyssa Martin played violin. While I missed Matt King on percussion, there was plenty of foot-stomping and table-tapping while they played. Their three-song set felt like the headliner act in a night filled with headliners. See them asap before Bjorn disappears again. He plays everything with strings too.
The final highlight of the night was an act called “The Duke and The Duchess.” The name refers to two ancient instruments these friends play and it was their first public performance. The crowd went nuts with applause and approval as these friends concluded their arrangement of “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You.” It was the perfect end to a perfect night. Well, the night wasn’t quite over. Almost everyone still there had performed so the whole bar took on an after-party glow. It will be hard to find an open mic that combines the food, beverages and musicianship in such high quality.
But I’ll keep trying. Please respond here or hit my Gigspots Facebook page to let me know if you have an open mic you think I should check out. You can see many videos of this night (and over 500 more) on my YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Gigspots1