Periodically, some of the editorial team from CX hangs out in a social context. Funny, since you’d think that after a week of hurling mutual abuse around we’d have seen enough of each other. Thing is that we all like good music played by good musicians in a good venue where the sound is good. It was this mutual interest that saw us resolve to meet up for dinner this Thursday night, then go to The Basement to see Doug Williams play.
I have to confess a soft spot for The Basement, even if I have only been there half a dozen times. The last was to see Larry Bragg and the Tower of Power, a gig so good I was compelled to buy his CD. The time before that I danced along with Angelique Kidjo as she sang on stage a mere metre away from me. Apparently she can sing in 12 languages, My introduction to the place was courtesy of Craig Calhoun, I think on a Brothers of Oz gig. Back then smoking was permitted inside. Krys Mysinski has always somehow made the shitty looking Ramsa PA sound incredible. Everyone on stage always seems genuinely happy, maybe that’s the appeal?
Anyway. We got there and found and the entrance had moved BACK to the side laneway. Okay. We paid at the door and got stamped – all reassuringly normal. Walking into the venue proper we met with a powerful smell of something which might have been paint thinner. Perhaps they’d been renovating? Some other things were out of place too – a huge and extremely colorful mural now plastered the wall in what used to be the Blue Note Bar. Apparently it’s now some kind of buffet area – the bubble light columns are gone. The mural is cool and well executed but it belongs in a Newtown laneway, not this place. Same with the table fashioned from a pallet and the strange wheel-out drinks bar. And the sign painted on a venetian blind.
In spite of the buffet thing, all the punters at tables were eating what looked like fajitas, or some other thing involving wraps served in tacky plastic containers. Any kind of food you have to assemble yourself shits me – I dine out because I want food made by someone who knows what they’re doing, and that’s not me. For a second I pondered if my beer would be served with a DIY allen key.
It seems The Basement has recently been taken over by a new operator, and presumably they think it is in need of a new image. Assumptions aside, the whole vibe of the venue felt weird. Not a good quirky kind of weird – just odd uncomforable weird. There was no warmth. After waiting 25 minutes with the band another 30 away, I couldn’t take any more of the strangely syncopated percussion track that was the background music. I walked out and jumped on a train home, remembering how good Doug was last time I saw him. Presumably he still is.