No Room (for the summer?) in Lake Worth

The Bamboo Room Goes Dark

Last night I went to see Adrian Belew perform at the Bamboo Room in downtown Lake Worth, FL. I’ve liked Belew since his ’89 release “Mr. Music Head”, and the Bamboo Room has been the premier live-music club in Palm Beach since its opening in ’99, so this should have been nothing but a great way to spend a Saturday night. But since owner Russell Hibbard announced a few weeks ago that, due to the iffy nature of the economy right now, the club would be closing for the summer, it was a bittersweet situation.  Because nothing says that the economy will be any better in the fall, so it was hard not to imagine that last night could have been my last time in that club.

As I walked upstairs to the club, the newstand by the door was filled with copies of a special poster commemorating all the artists that have played there during its nine years of existence. While the Bamboo Room focused primarily on blues and other roots music,  good musicians from all genres have always been on its bill, so it was generally a great place to see a musician you admire play in an intimate setting. In addition to seeing (and meeting) Belew last night, I also got to watch one of my favourite songwriters Marshall Crenshaw perform there. Formerly-local blues harpsman Jason Ricci has also played several gigs there since becoming a national act, so I could on a regular basis see a guy I once played with in a pick-up band tear up the joint with his current outfit New Blood. I also shared an open-mike stage there with ’60s star Dion, and recently caught the tail-end of filming for a live-performance DVD for Devon Allman’s Honeytribe band.

Some of my favourite local artistes have also graced its stage. The Bamboo Room became the venue of choice for local CD release parties: my friends Christine and Aidan of Friction Farm held a soiree there for their 2004 release Believe, and in the last few weeks I’ve been to release parties for alt-country band Black Finger and former INHOUSE lead guitarist Andy Stein.

If you’re a live-music fan and you’re lucky, you get to live in a town with a club like the Bamboo Room. I did once before, back in the Hudson Valley region of New York. The biggest town in the area, Poughkeepsie, didn’t have a lot going for it, but it had a club called The Chance where people like Suzanne Vega, Joe Jackson and The Stray Cats would play gigs, and The Police played there on their first tour of America. 

In the last few years, downtown Lake Worth has become the de facto live-music district of South Florida, and that has everything to do with the Room causing everyone else to elevate their game. And while there will still be venues there to see good local bands perform, Lake Worth (and Palm Beach, for that matter) has lost the jewel in its live-music crown. So come back in the fall, Bamboo Room, Lake Worth still needs you. As it is, it’s gonna be a long, hot summer without you.

8 thoughts on “No Room (for the summer?) in Lake Worth

  1. I have great memories of our shows at the Bamboo Room. Russell is one of those rare club owners who truly cares about the music, the musicians, the sound… definitely not all about the money. So if he’s closing for the summer that is surely a sign that times are tough. I echo Sheldon’s plea, “Come back in the fall, Bamboo Room”
    Christine, Friction farm

  2. The last time we had a recession, in 2001-2002, we lost the national music-store chain MARRS Music, which was a great place to check out gear, take lessons, even play a gig, as Christine’s group Friction Farm (and on a smaller scale, the Type Writer himself) did at the West Palm store. This current recession (or slowdown or whatever the technicians are calling it) seems to have the Lake Worth music scene in its sights, as a few weeks before the Bamboo Room went dark, the Aloha Cafe, a nearby venue that featured Hawaiian music and a popular open mike, went out of business forever. So if there are Lake Worth live-music venues you like to go to, and local bands you like to hear, now is definitely the time to go and support them…

    TW

  3. Arrrrgghhh!
    I wish I knew about this show.
    Belew is terrific, and is great on Zappa’s ‘Sheik Yerbouti’.
    His band includes Eric and Julie Slick, both from Paul Green’s School of Rock – you DID see ‘Rock School’, right? And Eric has played with former FZ guitarist Mike Keneally, doing a TERRIFIC job on the drums. Mike’s drum parts are often quite tricky.

    Brian

  4. Arrrrgghhh!
    I wish I knew about this show.

    Yeah, it didn’t seem well-advertised… I knew about it because I had been to a couple of CD release parties at the Bamboo Room in the weeks before that…

    Belew is terrific, and is great on Zappa’s ‘Sheik Yerbouti’.

    I like him for his solo work, (particularly 1989’s Mr. Music Head) but he also played guitar on one of my favourite Bowie songs, “Fashion”.

    His band includes Eric and Julie Slick, both from Paul Green’s School of Rock – you DID see ‘Rock School’, right?

    You’re the second person who’s told me about the documentary (Bill Meredith was the first) Guess I have to go find it now 🙂

    And Eric has played with former FZ guitarist Mike Keneally, doing a TERRIFIC job on the drums. Mike’s drum parts are often quite tricky.

    Belew’s drum parts are often tricky too, so it’s obvious the kid’s a kick-ass drummer (and I told him so after the show)

    TW

  5. I was sad to hear that Bo Diddley died. That guy had an amazing career and life. And I just loved his guitar, the Twang Machine. It looked so cool and unusual for a guitar! He sure could make is sing.

  6. Hey Bo Diddley (isn’t that a song 🙂 )

    I didn’t realize his guitar had a name… You know he made his first guitar himself in shop class at school, right? But I think his later guitars were custom-made for him by Gibson to be replicas of his original design…

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