This week’s quest for my live-music fix turned into an odyssey that took me first to Keller to check out Michael Lee Clemmer playing a solo show. It wasn’t in the stars. Just as I pulled into the parking lot, I got a message that the gig had been moved back to March. Onward. I headed east to one of my favorite jazz joints, the Free Man Cajun Cafe in Deep Ellum. Despite getting there early, I couldn’t get a seat at a table, so I headed out of Dallas.
Fortunately, I had heard that Buffalo Sam Anderson and Kenny Uptain were doing a song-swap at Grease Monkey Burgers in Arlington. This place bills itself as “Arlington’s Burger Shop and Social Club.” (We reviewed it in 2011.) Sounded inviting, and indeed as I stepped up to order my burger, I was treated like an old friend. I got the black and blue burger with onion rings for $12.95 and this was one of the best burgers I have ever had. The onion rings were first rate as well.
In the main room, Sam and Kenny were already in mid-song-swap. Sam Anderson regularly plays with Quaker City Night Hawks (indeed, he was playing a QCNH tune when I walked in), and Kenny Uptain plays with Foxtrot Uniform.
Most of what the guys did were originals, as both of these bands have a solid catalog of first-rate originals. But we did get a few classics. Sam did Tight Rope, by Leon Russell; Twilight, by the Band; and My Starter Won’t Start This Morning, by Lightnin’ Hopkins, while Kenny did I Found a Dream; by Lonnie Johnson; Aw Heck, by John Prine; and Goodnight Irene, by Lead Belly. Sam has a classic Texas rock ’n’ roll voice, while Kenny has that folk-singer vibe going on, with maybe a Bob-Dylan-ish inflection from time to time. The acoustic guitar work is spot on, and both of these guys are pleasure to see perform — both as solo artists and with their respective bands. They do this song swap on most Sundays (when there isn’t a game on) from 3-6 p.m. You can’t go wrong spending your Sunday this way.
Foxtrot Uniform will be playing March 1 at the Live Oak for the Orbans’ CD release party; and Quaker City Night Hawks will be playing the Paste Untapped Festival in Fort Worth on March 8. In the meantime, Sam, Kenny, drummer Matt Mabe and Katie Grace will be hitting the road as the Traveling Hodgepodge Band, playing in Amarillo and New Mexico.
Grease Monkey is a cool, garage-themed joint with car and motorcycle parts on the wall and a laid-back casual atmosphere. It has only been open since 2011, but it has already built a strong following and seems like a good place to get your live-music fix.