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 Cigar Garden/Bar, 509 Lake Ave., Lake Worth. Call 561-585-8444.
Brogues on the Avenue, 621 Lake Ave., Lake Worth. Call 561-585-1885, or click here.
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.
Brogues on the Avenue: Think of the chorus to "If I Could Turn Back Time." Now take away Cher's sultry man-voice and replace it with a sound that is more grating and less melodic and otherwise akin to the warbling screech of a primate in heat.
That is about the way it sounded in this particular karaoke rendition, which met our ears as three buddies and I made our way into Brogues Irish Pub. As the song ended, the karaoke host said, "Hmmm... well, she gets an A for effort."
I looked at the dark-haired bartender, Chelsea.
"That song — " I began.
"I know," she said.
"That rendition — " I continued.
"I know," Chelsea nodded, emphatically.
"We almost ran," I finished.
"That's fair," she said, passing me a cheap-ass (because it was ladies' night) Yuengling.
Brogues is elegantly decorated, with a long, squarish wooden bar, an expansive dining area, deep wooden floors, beautifully upholstered barstools, old-fashioned framed sketches, countryside paintings, and the standard Irish pub sign: "Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply." Its menu included chicken curry, shepherd's pie, and other traditional Irish fare. The drink section was intense, with wines, vodkas, gins, bourbons, whiskeys, and everything else the alcoholic Irishman in you might desire.
In the far right corner, the TV over a small stage displayed song lyrics (now, it was some song about a last breath), and Erin, a short woman wearing a pink scarf, belted out lyrics, missing a few notes but generally giving a decent performance. She told me later that she was a karaoke regular who came every Sunday to drink and sing.
Alan, the bar manager, was good-looking, with sharp blue eyes and a nice jaw line. He informed me that Brogues has a good menu selection, a lot of good drink deals, and live music every day except Monday.
"I'm actually Scottish, from near Glasgow," he told me. "I've been working here seven years — they needed to hire a Scotsman to keep all the Irish in line."
"That makes sense," I said. "I bet everyone tells you they're part Scottish, despite the fact that none of them have ever been to Scotland."
"Yes, they do," he said in his adorable accent.
"Then I won't say it."
By the time I returned to my buddies, a shortish, dark-haired dude wearing a leather jacket had taken the stage. We were skeptical. Then he began blasting out — in a rich, lovely voice — "I'll Be" by the Goo Goo Dolls.
"Why would anyone karaoke this?" asked my friend, Beard, in disgust.
"If you're singing this to a girl, you're not going to be any part of her life," quipped my surfer-dude friend.
"He's got a nice voice," said my smart, petite lady friend.
"Whatever. Tara, please find out why he's singing this," Beard instructed me.
Wayne, the dark-haired singer who channeled the Goo Goo Dolls too well, shrugged."I chose it because I'm trying not to step on anyone's toes," he said. "No one had done a slow song like that yet, and I figured I'd be able to pull it off."
"I mean, I'd never tried that song before."
The woman at his table, a beautiful older woman in tasteful makeup and a leather jacket, smiled.
"You guys at New Times wrote about me and my band about seven years ago," Wayne continued.
I nodded skeptically. (Note: This is absolutely true; a favorable review of his CD appeared in our now-defunct Bandwidth column in 2000.)
"Who's your lady friend?" I asked.
"My mother," he said sharply. "You didn't think she was my date, did you?"
"She's pretty," I conceded.
"She is a dancer," he informed me. "She used to dance with the guy who taught Travolta to dance in Saturday Night Fever."
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"Entertainment runs in our family," Wayne said with a smile.
And at Brogue's, entertainment is what you shall get. Also enough booze to drown an elephant — which will make the less-talented karaoke singers a little more bearable.
When the night was complete and my companions and I tottered out into the street, my heart was bursting with the kind of joy only music can bring.
But in retrospect, it might have been serious heartburn from too much beer.