Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Quick Restaurant Review - The Bohemian Caverns

The DC Stories #3
I went, I ate, I drank, and listened to some smooth jazz. I used to rock the scene and had seen so many jazz performances I liked to think I was a fan. Then I watched the little guy next me vibrate like he was going to explode as the music played. Very little gets me that excited. Very little.

I like jazz. I enjoy Coltrane, Monk, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, listen to Gato Barbieri and Norman Brown, and have gone to more than few jazz shows around Atlanta. So I was happy to tag along with Sal and my brother to the Bohemian Caverns for a night of jazz. Okay, I didn't know it was a jazz trio before we got to the door, I just knew that Sporty was out of town and the term "free ticket." So sue me.

The spot is up on U street, near Howard University. It's supposed to be a legendary jazz spot. Parking is tight, and so we parked up the street and took a pretty decent stroll. On the way Sal spotted the African American Civil War Memorial which is supposed to have an ancestor of hers on it. It's supposed to have been referenced in Glory, but I can't confirm that. I would have loved to have walked around it, but the arrangement was closed off. That and it was getting dark, and those names were small.

The Bohemian Caverns itself is probably three spots in one, there is the interior with, I guess, a bar, the outside patio, and the downstairs performance space. This review is only of the performance space. The local people we were with who wanted to walk down the street to another bar afterward the show. But then I got to see more Dee Cee. 

Now, I'm guessing its called the Caverns because lo and behold, the interior of the performance space is done so that it appears we are in a cavern. Well, maybe it's vice versa, and that they renovated it that way to go with the name. In either case, with its cave like motif the room is the most intimate of musical spaces, with small dining tables wrapped around a small stage such that the farthest table is no more than twenty feet back. Not only can the artist hear you, they can see you. A few tables they could probably reach out and touch you.

Now realize that we went here an hour or so after going to Georgia Brown's so much was not eaten here. I will say this, the bartender at the Cavern was better than our previous stop. Why? Rounded ice cubes. Seriously, the crushed ice had bruised my beverage earlier and I wasn't sure if the whole city was slacking, but the smooth ice of the caverns saved this poor town. I did have a slice of the chocolate cake however. A little dry, not the best I've had but okay.

The entertainment was The Young Lions, a jazz trio that is apparently very popular in the area. A mix of drums, piano and bass, the music is a blend of experimental, jazz, and hip beats. They are good. Very good. From our vantage (we sat to one side of the stage) we could see the shadows of the fingerwork of the  bassist Kris Funn, and it looked like he was weaving magic spells. With piano breaks, drum solos, James Brown tributes and just jamming, they had the crowd thoroughly entertained. The drummer Quincy even had us all roaring like lions before the night was over.

After the set I met the true jazz fan I alluded to in the intro, eager to share his joy with someone. And I have that kinda face. He had come in late, and took delight in the sounds bright eyed, grinning manically. He gave off the vibe of one of those guys who lives in a one bedroom apartment with no TV, whose living room is shelf after shelf of vinyl jazz records. He raved about how the Caverns was the spot for true jazz enthusiasts and not some other more commercial spot. I smiled and, just a touch frightened, agreed. 

Now they have two sets on Friday, an early and a late set and we'd attended the early one. My new music friend was staying for the second as well, so we left him behind. We walked down a few lively blocks to a spot called Next Door, right next to Ben's Chili Bowl, to finish out the evening.

Would I recommend the Caverns to the weary traveler in need of musical sustenance? Let's just say that I might have found a spot I would even send somebody let me see whose playing. That means yeah, go. Go now.  

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