Unlike some walking corpses employed at nearby watering holes who hype their localism yet treat regular patrons like outsiders barking orders at a Burger King drive-thru, the Bee's barkeeps are positively engaging and don't flash plastic smiles akin to those insufferable salespersons centrally positioned at Chesapeake Square and other shopping malls.
Along with being the most comfortable place in our 'hood to watch NFL and NBA action whilst chowing down on reduced-price appetizers, my brother Mike and I have noticed other forms of entertainment not usually offered at similar chain restaurants. This past summer, poker tournaments were held on Tuesday nights. Try dealing a hand of No Limit Texas Hold'em at Ruby Tuesday, and you'll be told "Goodbye!" faster than the apropos Rolling Stones single sped up to 78 RPM.
Until recently, karaoke was a mainstay of Wednesday evenings. Most of the interpretations put forth by brave contestants were takes on hit singles from the present day. Musical taste is subjective, of course, but Mike and I prefer to dine on "modern-rock" morsels from our youth such as The Smiths, The Replacements, R.E.M. and XTC. Thus, we're more inclined to appreciate Iggy Pop and Perry Farrell than Iggy Azalea and Pharrell Williams. (I finally heard the latter's "Happy" in between bites of the now-shelved Potato Twisters several months ago.) Just for kicks, Mike tried finding a tune from the karaoke book he'd perform in exchange for a free All-In Burger. To his amazement, The Connells' " '74-75" was listed among the selections. Mike never mustered the gumption to channel his inner Doug MacMillan, but perhaps one worldly lady or gent will earn a complimentary draft beer after singing the song that was a monster smash in Spain. I wonder how late Applebee's serves meals in Madrid, 'cause I've read that many rock 'n' roll bars in the capital city don't even OPEN 'til midnight.
On the subject of live music, it's a major occurrence whenever such activity can be enjoyed within the borders of Suffolk. One usually has to travel east to hotspots in Norfolk and Virginia Beach for an aural fix. Commuting by interstate was unnecessary on this Wednesday night, for Applebee's hosted a hodge-podge happening informed by the soothing sounds of reggae done acoustically.
Reprising an earlier get-together at Mason's back in September, the whole shebang was conducted with the welcome looseness of a self-contained open- mic night. Forgive my gratuitous labeling of the gig, but the ringleaders in question were Nic Robertson (The Prophets Of Zion) and Nicholas Leach (RastaMiles). Mr. Robertson commenced the festivities with a few unplugged versions of material from his band proper and other sources. Wish I hadn't misplaced my scraps of paper containing song specifics and various notes, but every cut was projected with heaping amounts of heft and heart. POZ should have a tangible release ready in early 2015. I'd place an advance order right this second, 'cause the disc should move quicker than Usain Bolt sprinting to a Carside To Go station from his chauffeured chariot.
The key moment from Mr. Leach's stage time was a sparse vocal/keyboard concoction that would've garnered kudos from Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and other cats hangin' at an after-hours piano bar. Jumping back to the Mason's bill, Nick had conjured up some stringed magic recalling Andy Gill's guitar histrionics on Gang Of Four's Entertainment LP. I'm not sure if he bent an ear towards that post-punk masterwork via my recommendation, but don't be surprised if "Ether" emits from his trusty axe come 2018. ("THERE MAY BE OIL!/ UNDER A ROCK!")
Guests included Adam Irvin, who proficiently pillaged from the catalogs of The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins and Franz Ferdinand. The legend who is Billy Baggs had left the premises thirty minutes before Irvin launched into the Foo Fighters' "Everlong." Sorry that you missed out on the abduction, man. RastaMiles' Steven Ange accompanied many of the numbers with hand drums, while Alex Moody colored the proceedings per skillful strikes of black 'n' white keys. Lastly, Chris Davis honked his horn with more sizzle than Trombone Shorty laying waste to an extra-large plate of Bourbon Street Chicken & Shrimp.
Before this night's realization, Mike and I'd had numerous conversations with Laura, Kristin, Finch, Chris and other tenders about the idea of live bands at the Bee's. "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!" Kevin Garnett exclaimed after a title run with the Celtics. I'd say a few more fingers need to be fitted for rings.
A Toys For Tots benefit will be held at Applebee's on December 22nd. The show starts at 9 p.m. Please make sure all donations are unwrapped. Hope a few of my Norfolk friends will join us for a good cause and quality entertainment.
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