The other night at Saxx, I overheard a guy shouting at his friend, “This is the first time I’ve been in here. This place is really unbelievable. Normally I would only tell my closest friends that it is here.” Imagine owning a place so good, that your patrons want to keep it secret.
Saxx you up: Ryal Thomas (left), owner of Belmont’s jazz lounge, and Jeff Lambert (right), who books the bands, are betting you’ll pay to enjoy the lounge’s acoustics, spacious dance floor and funky vibe.
Four months ago, Saxx went from being a private club to a public space hosting live music Wednesday through Saturday nights. And three months ago, owner Ryal Thomas hired Jeff Lambert to book all those nights of music. While Saxx’s focus is still jazz and blues, Lambert says that many of the bands playing the club are a “hybrid, a little jazzy, a little funky.”
Lambert, who was setting up for the Roc-a-Fella and Freeway after-party when I spoke with him, moved to Virginia from Massachusetts. He spent his first month here on the phone tracking down bands—now they are approaching him about dates. He says that American Dumpster, Eli Cook and Red Shoes have all been very good draws, as well as the regular swing dance that happens the last Friday of every month.
Why pay $5 to get into a show at Saxx? “The room was set up with music in mind,” says Lambert. Besides a full house sound system and a great dance floor, the room is beautiful, with a generous stage, house Steinway piano and lights. Plus, like Starr Hill, it is a nonsmoking venue, which has gotten much more positive feedback than negative.
Saxx’s other draw is its location, which is the bustling intersection of Carlton Road and Hinton and Douglas avenues. Belmont is chock full of 20- and 30-something professionals who are spending their time and money at Mas, La Taza and Saxx. “We are on the forefront of what Belmont is becoming,” says Lambert. Bands interested in getting on Saxx’s calendar should contact LambertatJlambert_75@yahoo.com.
The other great, new offering from the other side of the tracks is The Kings of Belmont, an offshoot of the Ween cover band Peen. Ross Van Brocklin, Max Collins and John Spagnolo have teamed up with bassist Dan Sheets and keyboard player Aaron Ahlbrandt to create The Kings, who play original music with a few covers thrown in for fun. Drummer Spagnolo says that having three songwriters in the band makes for a diverse sound. Van Brocklin brings a Ween style, and Collins writes in a more jam-based vein. The band practices in Belmont, hence the name. Catch The Kings at Orbit on June 27 and downstairs at Starr Hill July 6.
As for Peen, the band is still together and taking a short breather, but with the addition of Tucker Rogers, Peen is geared up for future gigs.
Since being purchased by Live Nation last year, Musictoday has started to see some clients come into the fold as a result of the acquisition. Musictoday now handles fan club, ticketing and merchandise sales for The Police and Celine Dion, while some other very big name artists are in the negotiation phase.
Kings of Belmont drummer Spagnolo, who has been a product manager at Musictoday for the past three years, says that two bands that are really successful with the site are DMB and Gov’t Mule. “They are the bands that drive the fans to the website, and who have a very loyal fan base who purchase a lot of merchandise online. DMB is really the perfect client.” But fans of Gov’t Mule are no less plugged in. In fact, Warren Haynes and boys were just cited for posting their millionth digital download from their Musictoday distribution site, Mule Tracks.
No strings attached: C-VILLE’s own Tim Granlund moonlights as an air guitar virtuoso.
Finally, as we reported last week in 7 Days, Tim Granlund, advertising assistant at C-VILLE, saw the film Air Guitar Nation last month and was inspired enough to enter the U.S. Air Guitar National Championship. His preliminary round took place in D.C., where he “played” 60 seconds of “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” Granlund was slightly pissed after he was eliminated in the first round, but partly because the second round featured his favorite song of all time, Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time.” “I got to appear on TV internationally though,” Granlund says, “as my performance was used to open and close the BBC’s segment on the competition. If the BBC thought I was the poster child for air guitar, then clearly the judges suck. Regardless, it was a kick ass show, and I had a total blast rocking a sold out crowd of 1,200.”
Granlund, who plays to win, promises to get his revenge when the last competitor is chosen in an online competition in August. The finalists compete in New York City, and the winner there gets a chance at The World Air Guitar Championship in Finland. Rock on, Dude!