If the names of these venues make you want to cry, you're not alone. Thankfully, however, many of the musicians have simply picked up and moved to the bars, replacing coffee with beer.
The seeds of the Grand Emporium's Monday night Rural Grit Happy Hour were planted at Whistler's Mother. Members of Trouble in Mind, the Young Johnny Carson Story and the Dhurries first met in that Westport Road coffee shop, where they discovered that they shared an interest in American roots music. At the same time, a record label called Rural Grit was just getting started. When Rural Grit's Kc and Kim Stanton started a weekly happy hour as an outlet for their artists, these musicians united by a genuine love for old-time music found a new place they could get together and play for the fun of it. On Monday evening, the Rural Grit Happy Hour celebrates four years as one of the most unpretentious, down-to-earth gigs around.
First, you have the bearded men: Brother Ike and Mark Smeltzer. (A long, ruddy beard is a sign of authenticity; they don't grow overnight.) Then there's fiddler Betse Ellis, who calls Smeltzer "a direct telephone line to 1925." And who could forget Dale Frazier (a farm man who occasionally brings his banjo and storytelling expertise to the city)? It was Frazier who once said that Smeltzer's pandolin (a frying pan with a lid and strings attached) sounded like a mosquito that had gotten into the corn whisky.
"It does sound like a drunk mosquito," Ellis agrees.
Don't worry: You're likely to hear a banjo played at least three different ways before the night is through.