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.