By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
English composer Frederick Delius once said, "Music is an outburst of the soul."
Most of my "outbursts" are alcohol-induced tantrums thrown in parking lots directly following forcible removal from booze-serving venues. Subsequent psychological breakdown occasionally ensues.
In an effort to contain myself for one evening, to appreciate the gentle flow of musical beauty, and to enhance said beauty with drink in excess, a troupe of companions and I checked out the Lake Worth local talent. We found music harmonious, lyrics heartfelt, and vocals just plain hideous — but nothing a little (OK, a lot) of booze couldn't temper.
Havana Hideout: We were, at first, underwhelmed by Havana Hideout: It was just a small room sporting orange walls, a tiny bar, a few mirrors, and some ornate hookahs. But then we heard the twang of an acoustic guitar and the rumbling of deep vocals — "Your own personal Jesus..." We quickly followed the reverberations past tropical foliage and out to the Hideout's patio garden.
We wove through tables packed full of island-dressed musicians and jumped up to a table on the elevated wooden deck. The scent of cigar smoke wafted through the air, large Christmas lights and table lanterns illuminated the surrounding broad-leaved palm trees, and the covered stage area was decorated with colorful Cuban art. Here we had discovered the real Havana Hideout: music as sweet as molasses, the most laid-back vibe north of Key West, and plenty of booze ready to go down smooth and easy.
"My fingers are freezing!" joked Patrick, the sweatshirt-clad guitar-strummer on stage. "Next year, I'm moving to Florida — heard it's warm there!" He asked for requests. "Seriously, I have no clue what I should play next."
"You play whatever you like!" someone in the audience shouted.
"Larry is a hard act to follow," Patrick lamented, nodding to the man who had played before him.
A blond waitress with braided hair slid us some menus, which boasted an assortment of delicious Central and South American entrées and a booze selection that would please beer snobs and sweet-toothed lushes alike.
"We've been swamped since 4 p.m.," our server said. "That's when open-mic night started." She recommended a thick beer — Magic Hat #9 — to one of my compadres and persuaded me to try the Triple Berry Basil sangria.
While awaiting my sangria and accompanying plate of veggie quesadillas, I hopped off the deck to chat up Max, a friendly gentleman wearing a Panama hat and discussing the finer points of the Gibson guitar.
"So, what's the buzz about this open-mic night?" I asked.
"It's every Sunday and Tuesday," he said in a thick Southern drawl (he was born in Texas and raised in Louisiana). "Lots of us have been coming for years. Great musicians here, like Larry," he said, gesturing to his beer-sipping friend.
"Larry! Is this your guitar?" the open-mic host yelled from the stage.
"Well, that depends," Larry said. "Is it expensive?"
"So how'd y'all find this place?" I asked.
"I was visiting my sister years ago, and as I was walking through the street, I heard the music here. I thought, 'Yeah, that's the vibe I'm looking for,' " Max said. "I stopped by, listened in, and shortly after moved to Lake Worth. I'd been looking for this place, this vibe, all my life."
A songwriter and guitarist with his own label, Max ("Maxie" to his friends) recently wrote a song called "Bartenders Ask."
"Because of my thick accent, it doesn't sound like ask when I sing it," he said.
"What else have you written?" I asked.
"I have a little song called 'Maxie No No,' " he said. He sang a few verses for me, which developed this premise: As a little boy, he'd try to reach the shelves at the store, and his mama would say, "Maxie, no, no." As a young man, he'd go to the go-go, and when he wanted to touch the dancers, they'd tell him, "Maxie, no, no." Nowadays, he wants to put drinks on his tab, but his card gets declined, and the bartenders tell him "Maxie, no, no."
"Do you write a lot of songs?" I asked after applauding the singer's sordid tale of deprivation.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "Not always when I want to, though. It's kinda like being schizophrenic: I've got music and words in my head."
"That's poetic," I said.
"We get all kinds here too — one night, we had a 90-year-old man come in to play, and he had the crowd riled up like you wouldn't believe," Max said. "Another time, there was a rumor that Eric Clapton was looking for this place. Word got out, and his bodyguards whisked him away, but it's cool to think he knew of us."
I'd worked up an appetite listening to the brilliant musical talent, so I hopped back up to my table, rejoined my friends (who were engaged in a loud and controversial debate about the Bible), and downed my Sangria in, I estimate, no less than three gulps. Though you may not be an artist or music prodigy, at Havana Hideout, that doesn't preclude you from sitting among them, talking with them, and — best of all — drinking like them. And you might even learn a thing or two.