Thursday, July 29, 2010


Electro-funk duo Chromeo savor pop’s uncool past

It’s not exactly big news that artists in search of tomorrow’s dance music find their inspiration by combing through the past. Lately, it’s more the rule than the exception. And these days, confronted with heavily picked-over retro-pop resources, dance acts are increasingly trolling through bins of a conspicuously hipper vintage — running everything from drug-fueled ’70s disco to gloomy ’80s synth-wave through the millennial irony filter, to varying results.

Meanwhile, the touchstones of Montreal electro-funk duo Chromeo are a lot less cool than that: think the funk of Rick James, the party-guy side of Phil Collins, and the parachute-panted New Jack Swing. But somehow, airlifting maligned stylistic flourishes (like slap-bass, orchestra hits, and talk-boxes) into the present day can breathe new life into those things you thought you’d never want to hear again. Distance, after all, does make the heart grow fonder — even if we’re talking about epic sax solos.

But it’s misleading to refer to Chromeo entirely in terms of the past. Alex Frankel of the NYC disco-funk act Holy Ghost — which is supporting Chromeo on their summer tour that hits the House of Blues tonight — says those sounds we associate with the past have been with us all along. “We make music with old instruments and equipment so it sounds old,’’ he says of both bands. “The records made between 1977 and 1984 sound better than any other recordings ever. At least to us. So that’s the sound we go after.’’

That time period factors heavily into “Business Casual,’’ the upcoming third Chromeo record. “It’s like the late ’70s stuff — what people call yacht rock,’’ says David Macklovitch, a.k.a. Dave 1, the guitar-playing, singing half of Chromeo. (Patrick “P-Thugg’’ Gemayel plays keyboards, synthesizers, and talk box.) The likes of Toto, Christopher Cross, and Boz Scaggs have all wormed their way into their ever-growing catalog of referents. But, he says — and this tends to be the knock on Chromeo in general — “people don’t take that music seriously for some reason.’’

It’s a problem shared by two of Macklovitch’s biggest musical heroes: Hall and Oates. Chromeo performed live with Daryl Hall onstage at the Bonnaroo festival earlier this summer, and had previously recorded a session with him on the webcast series “Live at Daryl’s House.’’
“It was definitely the highlight of our career,’’ he says of Bonnaroo. “To be playing alongside one of our idols, him playing our songs as we’re playing his songs, it was surreal.’’

It’s a feeling that Hall shares. “When I played my songs with theirs at Bonnaroo, the energy was palpable and electric in the audience,’’ Hall says. “Chromeo provide an unstoppable groove that is infectious and very hard to resist.’’

“Hall is a visionary and he still hasn’t gotten all the credit he deserves,’’ Macklovitch says. “If we, as a new generation, can help him achieve that, then he deserves our help.’’

So why the lack of cred? “The issue with Hall and Oates in the ’80s, I guess people saw them as big pop song writers, but they didn’t realize how highbrow their music was,’’ Macklovitch says. “When we first came out, no one else was referencing that ’80s funk sound — so coming from a skinny dude with glasses, they thought it had to be ironic. Even though there is a healthy amount of humor in our music, there is a serious amount of songcraft too.’’

Take “Don’t Turn the Lights On,’’ the first single from the new record. It’s a more layered production approach than usual Chromeo fare, with levels of harmony and rich, multi-tiered instrumentation. “It’s not a radical change,’’ he says. “You’re still gonna hear all the staples of the Chromeo sound. I think on a couple of tracks there’s a grown-and-sexy sophisticated feel. We’re just trying to work with arrangements, chord progressions, harmony, stuff like that.’’ Don’t worry, the throwback funk bangers are still in the mix.

Of course, having fun is always more important to the duo than sounding serious. “Exactly,’’ he says. “You think Michael Jackson was serious when he wanted to turn into a werewolf? It’s funny because Rick James wears red boots, but the songs are serious. You listen to a song like “Ghetto Life,’ that’s almost like a predecessor to conscious hip-hop. That stuff is classic, how can you not like that?’’
Boston’s dance-pop foundations played a big role in Macklovitch’s musical development as well. He grew up in Montreal, and lives in New York City now, but a summer in Boston when he was a teenager was revelatory. “That’s when I discovered JAM’N 94.5. This was the mid-’90s, so they were playing a lot of R&B, but they were playing a lot of ’80s stuff too, like New Edition’s ‘Cool It Now’ 90 times a day. It became my favorite song, and now you hear that in Chromeo.’’

The New Kids on the Block too, he says, loom large on their landscape. “New Kids on the Block, they were like real hip-hop cats too. I think Joey was like one of the biggest graffiti writers out there. I used to write graffiti like that. So I got love for that. I got mad love for Boston. They were just like us, hip-hop kids like we were.’’ Pop masters not taken as seriously as they would have liked, but solid songwriters that could get everyone on the dance floor. Cheesy keyboards aside, that sure sounds like Chromeo.

Holy Ghost

Static on the Wire
DFA Records

Did I miss the release of a “my hipstamatic dance band” app for the iPhone in the past year or so? Seems like it would be more surprising to hear a band that wasn't toggling between the glittery disco ball spectrum of late seventies disco and the washed-out tint of eighties new wave these days am I right? Just listening to this four song EP from DFA vets Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser makes my septum itchy. Its blend of New Order-style analog synth drifts, singalong hooks and mint guitar licks over stone-washed grooves is like the soundtrack to your twenty year old dad fingering bitches outside the powder room. But there's a reason why this type of burnt-siena-hued disco-pop is still so viable when it's done right, and that reason is called dancing your tits off. This widely anticipated release from the New York remix heroes (MGMT, Cut Copy, Phoenix, LCD Soundsystem et al ) proves tomorrow's electronic music can lean back into a killer groove without having to hit you over the head with its jacked-up, techno-douche dance hammer. Think of it as a natural segue into your daily scheduled Chromeo aerobics, but without the shit-eating grin. 

Branching out at Arnold Arboretum

For photographer, documenting trees was a natural fit

Becoming the photographer in residence for the Arnold Arboretum didn’t take much doing for Erik Gehring. He just had to start showing up with his camera every day. The photographer, whose work has been widely shown throughout New England, will release his 2011 “Trees of Boston’’ calendar later this month. It’s the third edition of his vivid and compelling nature studies.

Gehring, who lives in Roslindale with his family, says the proximity to the park, and its thousands of species of plants, dropped an irresistible subject matter right in his backyard.

“It occurred to me that there was somewhat of a niche to fill in becoming a photographer of the Arnold Arboretum,’’ he said. “I’m inclined toward nature photography in any case, so it’s a natural fit for something that’s so close by and has such an abundant variety of flora from around the world.’’

Capturing the beauty of the pastoral settings depicted in the calendar, and in a series of close-up bark abstracts he’ll show as part of the Music and Art Series at the Taylor House in Jamaica Plain from Aug. 8-Sept. 26, requires a lot of research and groundwork, he says. The Arboretum had to essentially become his second home.

“The best way to become a better photographer is to study your subject,’’ says the photographer, whose calendar will be available at Allandale Farm, Brookline Booksmith, Birch St. House & Garden in Roslindale, and other locations. That means he’s had to shoot in the morning, in the middle of the day, at night, in rain and snow storms, in the spring, fall, summer, and winter. Varying the time of day and year he approached the trees provided him with different ways of seeing them. “You learn about your subject, but also about light. That’s what photography is truly about, light. Without good light you’re not going to have much of a photograph.’’

The Arnold Arboretum is renowned for its collection of trees from throughout the world, but the London Plane is a particular favorite for Gehring. “It’s a popular city tree that’s pretty pollution resistant, and its roots are very tolerant of soil compaction.’’

They may not be resistant to a potential threat from the Asian Longhorned Beetle, however. An infestation of the destructive species found recently on the nearby grounds of Faulkner Hospital is worrying, Gehring says, but he’s not contemplating the destruction of his beloved sanctuary anytime soon.

“As far as I know there haven’t been any sightings in the Arboretum yet. They were ahead of this, as soon as things started happening [with an outbreak] in Worcester they started doing a very detailed survey.’’

All the same, the hypothetical threat, coupled with the ongoing change of the landscape around the city and the Arboretum itself, makes Gehring’s work take on a weightier tenor. Is it likely that he’s shooting trees for posterity now?

“All photographs have a posterity factor, have that quality of documentation,’’ he says. The landscape in the Arboretum is changing all the time anyway. “It’s so much different than what it was 20 years ago let alone 100 years ago. I think individual trees are changing as well. I don’t think about [posterity] when I’m out shooting. I’m thinking about creating a compelling image.’’

Gehring took an interest in photography as a young boy. He and his brothers would join his father on trips to the Grand Teton mountains. “My father was very much of an influence,’’ he says. “I remember getting up with him early in the morning and catching the alpine glow reflected off the mountains.’’ Later on he took some photography courses in college, but the hobby tapered off for a few years. After graduating from Cornell he went to work managing a limousine service.

“I was too busy, working 70- to 80-hour work weeks. But that changed when I left that job in 2001 and I started indulging my artistic side.’’ Gehring has also done some freelance writing and hosted an Internet radio show. “Photography is what I’ve been focusing on, if you’ll pardon the pun, for the past five years or so. It’s been kind of an organic growth; as I’ve moved up with the cameras I’ve gotten to be more and more advanced.’’

Even with a changing landscape, it’s the relative permanence of trees that makes them the ideal subject for Gehring.

“It’s just a basic connection to nature. Growing up, what kid hasn’t climbed trees for days on end? They’re alive, but they’re not alive like we are. You can mark the passage of time with their growth. There’s some sort of a primal connection.’’

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Haste The Day

Attack of the Wolf King
Solid State

For a band who seem to shed members with every release—bassist/vocalist Michael Murphy is now the only original one left—it's no mean feat to present a consistently solid aesthetic to fans over the course of nine years. Despite the virtual revolving door on the tour van, Haste The Day's fifth full-length largely maintains the tenants of the band's central faith. No, not the Christian one, the metalcore one. Although the former remains a through-line in the lyrical content; on the pummeling “Dog Like Vultures” the Indiana five-piece bring the lightning like a host of avenging angels. “And their blood will spill like water in a fountain for thieves and liars/So bare your teeth and sharpen your claws/Because we hold the keys,” screams vocalist Stephen Keech. Yikes, dude.

Instead it's the adherence to HTD's sonic commandments that grounds the record in familiar, brutal/sweet territory. Despite the fact that every single other band in the world does the melodic-metal dynamic-shift two-step now, it's still possible to stand out from the crowd when you master the little stuff and strike the right balance between high and low. Scene wannabes take note: The piercing guitars in tornadoes of harmony on “Travesty” that undergird guttural verses, then open up to reveal the majesty of a sweetly sung, clean chorus is how this shit is done. New guitarists Dave Krysl and Scotty Whelan inject enough melody and dynamic shifts in chord structure and attack to keep the quiet/loud movements from gathering moss. “Merit For Sadness” follows suit, charting a course of peaks and valleys through desolate rocky terrain (that's a metaphor for your soul, bro). “The Quiet, Deadly Ticking” fuses that metalcore sludge with a high octane, populist-punk gang-vocal energy and “White As Snow” slows things to a chilling crawl. It's a creeping atmosphere sketch broken up by blasts of controlled demolition that proves even when you're mostly working within a well trod formula, everything doesn't have to sound the same.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Liquid: A buzzworthy throwback

If a drink's name sounds like something your grandmother might've talked about when she was drunk, it's a pretty reliable indicator that you're dealing with a pre-Prohibition or Prohibition-era cocktail. Take the Hanky Panky, for example. Then there are Knickerbockers and Communists and Aviations (and, of course, what's perhaps my beloved matriarch's favorite, the You've Disappointed Me Yet Again Cocktail). Of these, the Bee's Knees may be the most popular example. Although little is known about the exact origin of the recipe and its enduring rhyming moniker, the phrase "the bee's knees" (which basically translates to "That's badass, dude!" in more modern colloquial terms) was 1920s flapper slang that evolved alongside expressions like "the cat's pajamas." Flappers were like the equivalent of today's hipsters: they were regularly drunk and decked out in weird costumes, and no one knew what the hell they were talking about half the time.

The recipe itself, which calls for a half-ounce of honey syrup, a half-ounce of lemon juice, and two ounces of gin in its original incarnation, was likely born out of an effort to disguise the face-melting horror of the bathtub gin being used during Prohibition. (To make honey syrup, add equal parts honey and boiling water, stir until completely mixed, and refrigerate.) Like many other cocktails that came out of that time, the Bee's Knees utilized sweetening ingredients and fruit juices to make the alcohol palatable. Fortunately, with the high-quality spirits we have available now, it's not necessary to bombard them with sweetness. But the recipe proved to offer such a refreshing charge of summery flavor that it has withstood the test of time, popping up on cocktail menus all over the city as of late.

Since the basic recipe is so simple, it's easy to riff off of. "My whole philosophy is to take something old, keep the integrity, but give it a modern take," says Matt Coughlin of Aquitaine (569 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.424.8577). His version of the Bee's Knees ($10) adds thyme to the honey syrup and is finished with oil from an orange peel. "Thyme adds a whole other herbal note to the gin, and it works really well with the citrus with a little bit of burnt orange peel on top," Coughlin says. "All the flavors are prominent, nothing overpowers, and it's really well-balanced. It's sweet and sour and bitter, and you can definitely taste the booze."

Kai Gagnon of Bergamot (118 Beacon Street, Somerville, 617.576.7700) thinks the cocktail is, well, the bee's knees too. "It's sort of my go-to cocktail when I want something really refreshing and simple," he says. "Lemon and honey has always been a classic combination, like in tea. Here they add additional aromatics to the gin." All of the honey syrups Bergamot's bartenders use in their version ($10) are made with honey purchased from local beekeeper Mike Graney. When it's available, they also incorporate his fermented honey into the recipe. "Fermented honey is a lot earthier and floral," explains Gagnon. "It changes the drink ever so slightly and makes it more interesting."

Then there are variations that use Barenjager, a vodka-based honey liqueur, in the recipe in place of the honey, adding a higher alcohol content and a subtle clove and vanilla component. One such sip is the Interloper ($10) at Lord Hobo (92 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, 617.250.8454), where the bartenders also rinse the brandy glass with scotch before serving, which brings a smokey nose to the cocktail. Other variations use a white rum in place of gin without much of a noticeable flavor discrepancy, or add grapefruit juice into the mix. But Sara Sweet Rabidoux of Chez Henri (1 Shepard Street, Cambridge, 617.354.8980) says that you can't really go wrong with the original recipe and that the quality of the honey is the key. "BŠrenjŠger is an okay substitution taste-wise, but you'd never want to use simple syrup. And really, the natural taste of real honey is what makes this drink so drinkable." Fortunately for you, she lauds the cocktail as one that's practically foolproof for home bartenders looking to entertain guests. "The Bee's Knees is simple to make at your home bar and a truly refreshing summer sipper." In other words, this giggle water is the real McCoy.


You know how people are always talking about “the magic of Hollywood?” Up until five minutes ago when I talked to a friend of mine, that’s pretty much how I figured movies were made: magic. I suppose I knew that there were all sorts of people involved in making a film besides Spiderman and the guy with the camera and the clipboard thing, but I’ve never actually had any desire to be anywhere near a movie set myself, so who can say really?

I asked my buddy who works on movies as some sort of “crew member” what the deal was over there with whatever it is he does. I still don’t really know what that is, but skip ahead if you want because he talks some shit about famous people.

SBTVC: OK dude, I guess you’re like some kind of blue collar electrician guy? On movie sets? How does that work?


Well, what it’s really called is a “Set Lighting Technician,” sort of a type of electrician but I don’t know how to wire a house or anything like that, and most electricians would have no clue how to do any of the shit we do because they’ve never seen the equipment we deal with. We spend a lot of time running heavy cable, a.k.a. horsecock, all over the place, moving giant and not so giant lights around and sitting in giant cherry picker type things called Condors with lights in them that are powerful enough to illuminate an entire city block or two. We also deal with generators that are big enough to run your whole town.

Zzzzz. When are we gonna talk about movie stars? Are movie people really as retarded as everyone makes them out to be?


Well, that kind of depends on the crew. If you are talking about star talent, no, most of the talent are pretty affable and polite and sometimes downright humble. Many of them kind of grimace at the same shit that the crew does, like when we invade a neighborhood at 3 A.M. or something. Of course when there’s an exception it is the most cartoon-ish type of all. Like you get minor stars or kids who don’t know how it is and they generally get fucked over early and leave the biz. Like one kid who worked on an ice cream commercial and said “the mint chocolate chip sucks” in front of the clients and production and creative team. “OOOPS, GET THE BACKUP KID OUT HERE QUICK.” Tough luck, pal.

Short answer: Most actors are OK, all producers are the worst people on Earth. Writers who decide to show their faces on set usually suck, and the entourages of the actors are hired to be douches in place of the actors. Basically that’s how it works.

So who is a good dude that we might have heard of? Ever get shit-canned with the talent?

Ed Harris is an awesome dude because he hates the producers more than the rest of the crew. Most of these fucking guys hate to be stuck in a stinky trailer all day and when it’s due to incompetence of the director or whoever, they take it very personally. And it’s always awesome when they lash out, especially the dudes who you already know are crazy. Some movie, Morgan Freeman, black dude who has all the freckles or whatever, Oscar winner, he reads his lines and Casey Affleck fucks up his line and they say, “OK, that sucked do it again.” And Freeman (weird name for a black dude, but whatever) goes, “I got it right, make him do it again!” and goes back to the craft service table for a snack before he went back to his trailer, bullshitting with the crew the whole way. I’ve never gotten shit-canned with the cast, but that’s just because going near those fucks puts you on the immediate entourage and production radar and they’ll do whatever they can to extract a crew member from that situation with as much bullshit as possible.

So you’re like in some kind of “union,” right? Do those dudes still fuck people up as much as they do in the folk tales? Also, why are all union guys so lazy? 

The union I’m in has not fucked anyone up since I’ve been in the union. I have seen some tender infighting but never any outward malice or anything. They’re mostly good folks, hard working, etc. There are other unions that are more prevalent in the “fucking things up” scene but I don’t want to speculate who or which union that might be.

You big pussy. What’s the weirdest shit you’ve seen go down on a set?

About ten years ago I saw a group of members of one union totally gang up and attack a New York crew member at a motel bar. It was FUCKING AWESOME since everyone involved was a total fucking asshole who deserved to get fucked up or arrested, and I guess it turned out there were feds in the bar undercover already taking a look at the attacker union so it was a big deal for like a week.
I saw one of Kevin James’ handlers go bat shit because there were books on a shelf in one of his scenes that dealt with evolution, and apparently he’s pretty big on the creationism thing. Val Kilmer was a whackadoo. He smeared shit all over the mirror in his trailer and did the same thing in his hotel room. He also borrowed a knife off one of the grips and sliced up every leather surface in his rented Benz that he left abandoned in Roxbury. Uhhh, let’s see… Martin Lawrence was the king of the assholes and fired a production assistant on the spot for asking him to wipe his feet before he went into a mansion that we were shooting in. I saw a drunk driver sideswipe Brittany Murphy’s parked car and the teamster who was in the car took off after the drunk and was followed by a van with like five more teamsters in it. I hope the cops got there first.

Why would someone smear shit all over anything besides toilet paper? That is so bizarre. What was Brittany Murphy like? 

I guess Kilmer is notorious for doing weird stuff. I have nothing on Brittany Murphy as she was yanked from the set as soon as she uttered her lines. Some of these fucks are in need of total shelter at all times, I guess.

Too soon, dude. So how much drug use is going on over there on the job? See any good fights or fucking? What about drug-fueled sex fights?

I have seen all of these things. Fights usually happen when there’s people from LA around. They just don’t understand that [Boston] isn’t a place where people are used to seeing movie crews yet. So they inevitably piss citizens off and they inevitably start mouthing up and it gets ugly fast. I mean, like in any job you get your share of alcoholics and drug addicts on the gig, but these people are identified quickly because nobody wants to pick up their slack all day for 12 weeks or whatever. There are not too many crew instances of drug use that I can recall, but at one point there was quite a bit on the commercial sets, probably before my time.

Sure it was. What about boning?

I have tried very hard to witness sex but it’s usually two homeless people in an alley while I’m running cables and trying to avoid dog shit and hypodermic needles. Very glamorous work, showbiz.

Whenever actors talk about pretending to have sex for a film, they always say, “It’s awkward having all these big hairy crew guys watching, so it’s not sexual.” You’re big and hairy, right? Are they talking about you?

Actors are absolutely full of shit. That’s what they are paid to do: lie professionally. So when there’s nudity or a sex scene the set is closed and only essential persons are allowed in the location. Of course we all try to become “essential” when the shit goes down, but it never works. What the actors don’t really know is that the idiot who records video of the film for playback will always share the footage, including outtakes. This is where most of the shit on TMZ comes from for fuck’s sake. Christian Bale has made a policy of never letting the VTR guy out of his sight until his assistant has confirmed that his media drives have been secured by production. Someone’s always willing to talk though. Usually it’s a person like me who takes the confidentiality agreement out of the deal memo and crumples it up in a ball. I will never sign one of those fucking things. Fuck that.

Who is the hottest piece of ass you’ve had to deal with. Was it hard to keep your boner in check?

Um, let’ see… Drew Barrymore was really cute in person and she was also really nice to the crew. Unfortunately her idiot boyfriend from The Strokes was always sniffing around so it was tough to talk to her without him getting all eye-contacty and douchey. Couple of broads from TLC home improvement shows are hotter than hot and like to talk a good game. Local news chicks are always good to go. Um, what the fuck is her name… Goldie Hawn’s daughter was totally gorgeous and awesome, she walked around the room and said hi to everyone individually in a way that seemed totally sincere. She smelled really really nice. She was total boner material.

Are you satisfied with your lot in life? Is this what you always wanted to do? 

Yeah, this is a decent job and it allows me to make a very good living. I could have done what my dad suggested, which is work for the city or some shit, but I like this job. My immediate co-workers are great folks and it is a good way to stay connected with an art form that I’m totally interested in. Of course when I’m picking cable up out of dog shit at 3 A.M. in Chinatown my answer is different but yeah, you get the idea. Good dudes, decent money and whatever.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Double Date: Sustainable Interest

Go green at a screening of ‘No Impact Man,’ then dig in to Tallulah on Thames’s locally sourced dishes

With its mansions and seaside allure, Newport, R.I., has long been a destination of choice for tourists, presidents, and artists alike. With the Newport International Film Festival now defunct, Andrea van Beuren launched NewportFILM earlier this year. “NewportFILM will have a film festival, but it’s only one component of what we’re doing,’’ she explains. “We’re going to be offering a year-round screening series in Newport.’’

The first film of the series, “Nowhere Boy,’’ has a sold-out screening tonight. Looking ahead to Wednesday, “No Impact Man’’ is a good bet for the environmentally conscious viewer. The documentary follows the exploits of Colin Beavan, who will be in attendance, as he struggles to live off the grid with his family in New York City. “ ‘No Impact Man’ is a film that I’d seen and loved,’’ van Beuren says. “With so many people starting to focus on sustainable agriculture and restaurants and the green movement, I thought it would be fun to do an outdoor screening at a local farm, Sweet Berry Farms.’’ Many of the films will be shown in pastoral settings, such as local bird sanctuaries, farms, and other protected properties. “It will be like a moveable feast of screenings all over the place.’’

“No Impact Man’’ shows Wednesday at 7 p.m. Free with registration. Sweet Berry Farm, 915 Mitchell’s Lane, Middletown, R.I.
While it may not always seem practical for most average families to commit to a completely sustainable, zero-impact lifestyle like Beavan, one way to get started is by patronizing restaurants that source much of their food from local farms. Tallulah on Thames, a new European-style bistro in Newport, is one to consider.

“Our cuisine is modern American, farm to table,’’ says owner Kelly Ann Maurice. “We buy from local farmers. We started off with [a guide to local farmer’s markets], and we buy from individual farmers themselves.’’

They’ve also recently partnered with Chefs Collaborative, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable practices among area chefs. Most of the proteins and all of the produce on the menu come from local farms, including dishes such as breast of chicken from Baffoni’s Poultry Farm, or Blackbird Farm poached egg with Allen Farms pea greens. It’s about having a smaller environmental footprint, says Maurice, but also about supporting people “right in your backyard, local people who are working hard.’’

Anyone know how long the bike ride to Newport is?

Tallulah on Thames, 464 Thames St., Newport, R.I. 401-849-2433.
Boston Globe

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursty: The Gallows


The Gallows: A really cool place to hang

With a name like The Gallows, you might expect this new South End gastro-pub to take on a gothic tenor. Some aesthetic touches here do hint at the horrific, like torso statues, a raven over the bar and ferocious dinosaur taxidermy.  Wooden slats running across the ceiling are splashed with vectors of luminescence from dangling wicker-wrapped filaments and Edison bulbs. But the soundtrack is more incongruous party rap than gloomy, and the menu is all about playful interpretations of comfort food; you won’t find corn dogs, poutine and soft-serve ice cream on many menus in the precious, candle-lit South End.  And the drinks menu lists Diet Bud among the beer options.  

“We have some humor as well,” says owner Rebecca Roth. “We serve Natty Light 22’s and Boone’s Farm Watermelon because that’s what I drank in high school.” 

The cocktail list winks at the ghastly though, with options like the Tar and Feather — made with Rain vodka, Cherry Heering, black tea and ginger — and classics like the Corpse Reviver, made with ingredients like Plymouth gin, Absinthe and Cointreau. If that’s all too frightening, consider The Healer, made with Old Overholt rye, mead, lemon and honey. 

“Mead was like the original alcohol,” says Roth. “It soothes your soul.”
What she’s having
“We’re not mixologists here,” Roth says. “That’s not what we do. We just try to rock out and keep our heads down.”  They realize drinking is supposed to be fun. Cocktails like their White Grasshopper, made with Svedka Vanilla, mint syrup and crème de cocoa, are served in cute, 8 oz. milk bottles from the 1930s. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” she says.

The Gallows
1395 Washington St., Boston

Sunday, July 18, 2010


As is usually the case with most people without any marketable skills beyond writing penis jokes and serving scallops to yuppies, the idea of a real job confounds me. I’m vaguely aware of the basics, but the actual step by step details are a fucking mystery. I realize that all of my friends have a place that they go to every day to make money, but beyond that, who the hell knows what they get up to. Seriously, what do most of you even do all day?

You’ve got some friends. One of them is probably like an accountant, or a lawyer, or a boat captain, or whatever. Apparently these people sit there doing shit all day while you’re not around. Kind of weird if you think about it.

So here’s a new thing: I’m gonna ask people with jobs what the hell is going on and hopefully we’ll all learn something about our friends, and maybe, just maybe, learn a little bit about ourselves. Probably not though.

My one friend has been a librarian in the New York Public Library system for a few years now. She’s pretty cute actually, which is probably great news for all the masturbating homeless dudes she deals with every day.

LUKE: So you’re a librarian? That’s gotta be peaceful, right? What the fuck do you do all day, read?

CUTE LIBRARIAN FRIEND: I sit at a desk all day answering questions, some of which are inane, some of which are the same questions 14 other people already asked, some of which are annoying, and a few of which are interesting. I also get to be annoyed by people asking me to waive their fines and deal with whatever catastrophic event some elderly patron thinks is unacceptable (usually along the lines of no toilet paper, no copies of the latest James Patterson book, etc.).

The absolute worst thing about my job, besides having my life threatened multiple times by crazy people, is dealing with peoples’ overdue fines. It’s 25 cents a day for fucks sake. I don’t want to know your name, your kid’s name, or your sob story. I don’t care and I didn’t earn a master’s degree to have to haggle with you for $3.75. Half off if you are actually retarded, but that’s the only discount I’ll give. The second worst thing is having to listen to old people fart all the time.

Apparently there is a lot of shitting going on in libraries. I did not know that.

I did not technically see this, but someone once took a shit less than 6 feet from our public restroom door. Not sure why they couldn’t make it the extra few feet.

I’ve been there.

It was not a child-size poop either. There have been a surprising amount of incidents having to do with someone either urinating or taking a dump in the library. One busy Saturday afternoon a parent decided it was a good enough place as any to do some potty training in full view of strangers (with a portable potty thing). Another time a teenager who had been causing a lot of problems urinated on the floor in defiance of being kicked out. There are also a lot of mysterious smells and stains around this place that no doubt have their own personal stories.

General weirdness happens constantly: homeless people, the mentally ill, agoraphobics, narcoleptics, people who haven’t left the Upper West Side in 50 years … they all frequent the library and they all have their own idiosyncrasies. I usually coin nicknames for these people: the Asshole Mormon, West Side Stan, Coast to Coast Mary, the Lecherous Haitian, Fat Connor, the Nazi Grandmother… I have a million names for these people in my head.

I like the sound of that Haitian dude. How do you work up the will to get out of bed every morning knowing you have to go to work?

Although there are millions of things that annoy me about the job, I generally like it and feel like it’s a worthwhile thing to do with myself for a living.

What about your co-workers? Douches, right?

My co-worker used to walk around without shoes on and his feet stank horribly. It was nauseating. He was eventually spoken to by our boss because a patron complained about it. Meanwhile I had been suffering not so silently for years. He also wears stained clothing all the time and leaves his half-smoked cigar butts lying around. Once I walked into his office and he was in his underwear, putting on his pants, with a teenage boy standing at the door. I caught a glimpse of his penis through his old baggy boxers. I turned around and walked away and never spoke of it again. Generally the most annoying thing is the defeatist bureaucratic attitude that everyone has in a public institution. The answer is almost always “No, we can’t do that,” or “It’s not possible” or “We’ve always done it this way,” or “We can’t afford it.”

What else do the library’s patrons do?

Most suck pretty badly but there are some really, really nice and funny people who make up for the assholes. What is really weird to me is that people will come in having no idea what a library is all about and expect me to do their taxes or type a letter or fax something for them. Or kids will come in with only a vague idea of their homework assignments and expect that I am somehow in the loop with their teachers so that I can tell them what the question was.

That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard. So great.

Sometimes it’s incredibly sad too. There was a woman who came in and she was in the early stages of dementia and was trying to figure out her hospital bills. She had no children, no friends, or husband to help. It was heartbreaking. I did the best I could directing her to various city resources for the elderly, but I felt so sad for her I almost cried when she left.

Now I’m gonna cry. Thanks a lot. What’s something about your job that no one really knows that you think people would give a shit about?

People will just tell you everything. Many, many times people will give me their social security numbers and all kinds of personal information, especially around tax season. Today a woman asked me to Google her name and social security number. Seems that she wanted to find out if the government owed her money. After trying to determine what she was talking about, I realized she wanted that guy with the question mark suit’s book, Matthew Lesko. Later on the same day she asked me, “If I miss my period for three months does that mean I’m pregnant?” She obviously has troubles.

Street Boners and TV Carnage

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cookin’, Southern style

Before boogeying to R&B at the Bastille Day A-Go-Go, head over to Tupelo for some New Orleans-inspired cuisine

Bastille Day has just passed, and Mardis Gras is a long way off, but there’s no room for logic when it’s time to party. Tonight’s Bastille Day A-Go-Go event, a musical revue in its 17th year, gives you one more chance to celebrate both. Shaun Wolf Wortis, the Boston musician behind the show, says it’s an excuse to shed some light on an overlooked musical form.
“It’s New Orleans rhythm & blues music, one of the original forms of rhythm & blues. It kind of has a proto-garage rock sound.’’ His group the Vudu Krewe All-Star Mardis Gras Band will perform songs that call back to the jump blues of the 1940s and on to the soul pop and funk of the 1960s. Joining him on the bill is a spectrum of homegrown talent, including Jen D’Angora and Jordan Valentine of the soul outfits Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents and the Sunday Saints.
“It’s definitely a labor of love for myself and my band,’’ says Wortis, who often dresses up in a Napoleon costume to perform. Guests have been known to dress up as Marie Antoinette or as French revolutionaries as well. “We love this music and it doesn’t get played too much,’’ he says. But then how does he explain the party’s staying power over almost 20 years? “There’s a lot more stuff going on in town now with rhythm & blues and neo-soul, but when we started doing this there was nothing. It’s just kind of the granddaddy. I’m pretty relentless, I’ll just keep it around until I can’t do it anymore.’’

Bastille Day A-Go-Go, tonight at 10. $7. Precinct, 70 Union Square, Somerville. 617-623-9211.
Rembrandt Layman, the chef at Tupelo in nearby Inman Square, is also working with a New Orleans-inspired labor of love. His mother is from New Orleans, and going back there frequently to visit he grew to appreciate the style of cooking. His menu at Tupelo includes dishes like Cajun gumbo with pulled chicken and smoked andouille sausage, pan-fried catfish with cheddar grits and collard greens, Louisiana beef brisket, crawfish boils and crawfish étouffée. The most interesting part of the cuisine for him was learning about the historic cooking techniques of the diverse peoples in the area, he says. “Over the last several hundred years the food there has evolved because of where the people came from, Europe . . . the West Indies, Ethiopia. They all convened in this area, bringing the ingredients and knowledge that they had.’’ His menu, too, is all over the map, but he says you can call it “comfort food with a Southern drawl.’’  
Tupelo, 1193 Cambridge St., Cambridge. 617-868-0004.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Marina and the Diamonds

Marina and the Diamonds
Family Jewels
Chop Shop

You know those sci-fi dystopias where people strap themselves into little portable video pods and mainline TV feeds into their face until they become useless, pale husks incapable of feeding themselves? Well, I've just watched the video for "Oh No!", from Marina and the Diamonds' debut full-length, 47 times, and I think I'm gonna be content with just this for the rest of my life — let my mom know I love her or whatever.

I'd be fronting if I didn't mention that Welsh singer Marina Diamandis's uncommon beauty has something to do with the appeal of the already irresistibly idiosyncratic dance-pop track, but she could look like a beached narwhal with face cancer — the pop-art charisma she exudes with every flutter of her simultaneously winking and heartbroken voice would still destroy worlds. And that's probably not even the best track here.

"I Am Not a Robot" is a wounded, sweeping swan song in the Regina Spektor quirk-pop piano mold that's the most romantic musical declaration of humanity in memory. (Search out Penguin Prison's chilly disco remix, which ups the dance- and brain-virus quotient considerably.) "Hollywood," too, captivates with an artful dissection of the American Dream that surface-level stylistic doppelgänger Katy Perry would need a study guide to parse. The likes of Kate Nash and company have flitted through this piano siren/exuberant dance-diva territory, but never mind, because this gorgeous genre starts now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Casking call: The real-ale movement is alive in Boston


"Keg beer is dead." 

Mark Bowers of the New England Real Ale Exhibition is speaking literally here about the natural quality of beers we regularly drink out of kegs. But for his group and others like it, the statement could also serve as a rallying cry. He's relating something said by his compatriot Colin Valentine, national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale. "The only way of getting some life into keg beer is by putting the equivalent of 5,000 volts up its ass in the form of CO2." 

The alternative, real ale, or cask-conditioned ale, is very much alive. "Keg beer is usually re-carbonated and then kegged," says Max Toste of Deep Ellum (477 Cambridge Street, Allston, 617.787.2337). "In cask-conditioned ales, the beer carbonates itself. It's beer that still has live yeast in it. The beer is alive, living and breathing." 

That's been the traditional method for serving ale in the United Kingdom for centuries, but here it's a slow-building trend that's gained a foothold in Boston bars in recent years. 

"It's all-natural beer," says Suzanne Schalow of Cambridge Common (1667 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617.547.1228). "It's born in the same vessel that it's poured out of, and it doesn't come into contact with any unnatural gases, CO2 or nitrogen or anything like that."
The first time these ales reach air is when the cask is vented, breathing from four to eight hours. "Once you tap into it and let it hit air, it can be a little frustrated or upset, as we call it, because it's its first time seeing the world basically," Schalow says. 

The way these ales are made and served can make for a vastly different drinking experience for many American beer drinkers. Some people are confused by the lower carbonation, explains Toste. "And it's served at cellar temperature (50-55 degrees), which is not warm. It's not room temperature, which is a major misconception." 

But these changes are for the better, advocates say. Most tap systems around the city are running at about 42 degrees. With cask-conditioned ale, the "warmer temperature allows the flavors and the aroma to really stand out," says Schalow. "You can really pick out a lot in a cask ale. For someone who's not used to drinking a cask ale, their palate is going to be livened and woken up because there's so much flavor there."

"It's kind of like a good wine, wines that have been aged and matured and not filtered and such," says Bowers, whose group holds two real-ale festivals in Massachusetts every year. "They take on characteristics and complexity that you don't get when you pump it into a keg, bottle it up, filter, pasteurize it. It's got a more complex taste, a softer mouth feel, too, which interacts with the taste because the carbonation is less than what you get in a lot of beer. It feels more integrated with the beer. It's like a Champagne that's fermented in the bottle. The bubbles are tighter and smaller."

One reason for drinkers' reluctance to embrace task ales may be the number of bars serving them improperly, Toste says. "You don't just throw it underneath the bar, tap it, and there you go. There's a process to it." The beer needs to be left to settle and then vent for the right amount of time before service. "The idea is the beer is properly carbonated, and it's nice and clear, not cloudy," Toste says.  

Bowers points to Cambridge Common, Deep Ellum, Redbones (55 Chester Street, Somerville, 617.628.2200), and Lord Hobo (92 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, 617.250.8454) as bars that do a good job. The recently opened Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale (48 Temple Place, Boston, 617.426.0048) and Russell House Tavern (14 JFK Street, Cambridge, 617.500.3055) also have cask ales on tap. 

All of them generally turn the casks over every couple of days. Since they don't have any preservatives, the brews don't last much longer than that. "The last thing you want is a bad cask beer," says Bowers. "It turns people off, and it's hard to get them to go back. It's critical that the bar that serves the beer gets it right. Because the product is live, it has a chance to go bad." 

Think of it like the difference between fresh strawberries and frozen ones. As Bowers puts it, "The fresh ones don't have the shelf life of the frozen ones, but they taste a hell of a lot better."

Barchetypes: A taxonomy of Boston’s bartenders

Bartenders, like the bars they work in, come in all shapes and sizes. But eventually you start to notice a few recurring archetypes. In Boston, we've got the surly Irish barman, the friendly Irish barman, the old-timey Irish barman... Then there's the indifferent model wannabe, the corporate hack, and the greasy nightclub jerk. Most of those are the types you want to avoid. There are, however, some rarer species whose unique characteristics help turn their bars into destination watering holes. Here is a 100% scientifically accurate study of these curious specimens.

Natural habitats: Gastropubs, retro dives, Somerville, and Inman Square
Appearance: Brightly colored tats, piercings, and a scally cap or fedora
Diet: The classics - straight and simple spirits, blue-collar beer out of a can, or a shot of bourbon
Natural enemies: Bud Light drinkers and customers who ask them to turn the music down
Often mistaken for: A dude on his way to play a gig at Great Scott, a bike messenger, or a record store clerk (remember those?)

There's something about being behind a bar that enhances your level of cool, not unlike the effect taking the stage has on a musician. Since these bartender types usually look indistinguishable from rockers anyway, the comparison makes sense. And like a hipster with a vast trove of music history under his or her belt, these guys have a highly refined sense of taste when it comes to classic cocktails and craft beer. They take the same approach to vintage bartending techniques that music nerds do to collecting old vinyl. "Record collecting is a great comparison. I think before you can understand contemporary anything you have to know its roots," says Mike Stankovich of the Biltmore Bar and Grille (1205 Chestnut Street, Newton Upper Falls, 617.527.2550). "You can't really get into Charles Mingus's improv stuff without getting into all the guys that came before." Beau Sturm of Trina's Starlite Lounge (3 Beacon Street, Somerville, 617.576.0006) agrees. "I used to collect vinyl. I still have a couple hundred records. I think that Miles Davis sounds a lot better on the needle than on my iPod, just like a Manhattan made with great classic spirits doesn't need to be enhanced at all."

Bartending is a natural fit for people who are drawn to artistic pursuits, says Stankovich. "I think a lot of that image or perception just comes with the creative aspect of bartending, similar to cooking, art, or music. You as a person enjoy creating something for others to enjoy. I think a lot of people in this business get into it to allow them the freedom and flexibility to pursue other things like art and music." And though they hew to some hipster traits, these types definitely don't have a hipper-than-thou attitude: they are as laidback and welcoming as they are knowledgable and artistic. "Good bartenders are sort of the host of a nightly party," says Sturm. "We play good music, make our guests some good drinks, serve them some good food, and make sure everyone is having fun and feels like they're a part of that fun." Unlike music snobs, they want to share the cool stuff they've discovered with everyone. "I definitely don't think it should be ‘insider knowledge,' " says Stankovich. "I wish people would explore the old [cocktails] more at home. Classics are classics for a reason."


Natural habitats: Trendy hotel bars, modern taverns, speakeasies, mixing competitions, and en route to San Francisco and New York all the damn time
Appearance: A white shirt, a black vest, and dark-rimmed glasses
Diet: Fernet-Branca or some long lost spirit from 1863 just rediscovered in an archaeological cocktail dig
Natural enemies: Flavored-vodka swillers and Cosmo drinkers
Often mistaken for: A very hospitable mad scientist

Having trouble keeping track of all the different types of spirits available behind the bar these days? Don't worry; bartending historians have you covered. They not only know how to expertly mix any cocktail you throw at them, but they can also tell you the story of its origin. That's probably because they've spent so much time studying seminal bartending tomes like Jerry Thomas's The Bar-Tender's Guide from 1862 and Harry Craddock's The Savoy Cocktail Book from 1930. While it's easy to take these types for granted in Boston now - it seems like almost every good bar has someone on staff with a veritable PhD in mixology - they haven't been around that long, says Aaron Butler of Russell House Tavern (14 JFK Street, Cambridge, 617.500.3055). "From what I've gathered in my travels, the trend of bartending historians in Boston began with Brother Cleve (a local music and cocktail legend) and spread to people like Misty Kalkofen [bartender at Drink and longtime bartending historian] and John Gertsen [also of Drink]. People sat at their respective bars, imbibed, and learned. I, for one, was a patron of John Gertsen when he was at No. 9 Park, and I learned a great deal."

When you're at the bar tonight drinking a Sazerac or a Hanky Panky instead of a vodka soda, these are the folks you should be thanking for making everything old new again. They're experimenting with house-made bitters and liqueurs and reviving the glory days of the cocktail, before American palates were deadened by tasteless vodka and overly sweet mixers.

Of course, just because someone can recite the batting averages of the lineups in the 1920 World Series doesn't mean they know how to hit a baseball. At their best, these types combine a sense of history with a mastery of technique, even if it takes them a little bit longer to get your drink out since they're fussing around with so many arcane mixing implements and eye-droppers full of oils and essences like some boozy chemist in the lab. "It's always nice to be able to have a conversation with someone who knows what they are talking about," says Peter Ketchum of Anthem Kitchen + Bar (101 South Market Street, Faneuil Hall, Boston, 617.720.5570). "It's nice to walk into a bar and order a Corpse Reviver #2, and the only question I get in return is what kind of gin I would like. I don't think it's so much a requirement to have a historian on the bar as it is a necessity to have someone behind the bar who understands how to build a classic cocktail."

If a bartender can entertain you with a story of the drink's history while building it, all the better, says Butler. "People are drawn in with stories, and that's what I love doing. I love telling stories and teaching people." Some of the trivia is actually quite fun, too. "I always like to tell the one about why we put three espresso beans in sambuca," says Ketchum. "Beans were put in glasses of sambuca by European underground resistance members during WWII to alert U.S. and British military to not speak openly in a bistro/cafe because German undercover agents were on site. Supposedly three beans meant they could talk openly, so it became a tradition and good luck." Get (responsibly) drunk on that knowledge.


Natural habitats: Classic neighborhood bars and low-drama establishments
Appearance: A touch of gray and an air of frank wisdom
Diet: Soda and lime, Miller High Life, expensive wines, and the occasional special liquid gift the distributor dropped off
Natural enemies: Customers who act like their kids or set off their finely honed bullshit detectors
Often mistaken for: The owner

The elder statesmen of the bartending trade, these types aren't exactly your grizzled dive-bar tap-pullers, but they've been around long enough to know better. They've seen trends come and go, and they don't need characters like you giving the place atmosphere. All the same, they're professional enough to handle anything that comes their way with a smile and sharp service.

Guys who have been in the business 20-plus years, like Frank Reardon of The Beehive (541 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.423.0069), get to see a lot of bar fads. The ones he's happiest to see dead? "Spinning bottles, lighting drinks on fire, dancing on bars, juggling anything, and all the other gimmicky garbage bartenders used to define themselves," he says. The moment we're in right now seems to be a good one though, says Paul Christie of Gargoyles on the Square (219 Elm Street, Somerville, 617.776.5300). "The popular bars these days are putting much more emphasis into making their own infused liquors, different forms of simple syrups, and various bitters. Twenty years ago, I wasn't making my own ginger syrups or orange bitters."

Twenty years ago, he probably wasn't as patient behind the bar, either. With their lengthy experience, these types have also learned not to let the little things bring them down anymore. "I think you achieve a certain Zen simply with maturity," says Christie, who's been at the same bar for 15 years now. "One of my favorite old sayings is that the more you stay in one place, the easier it is to find yourself. I find that very true for me. And I think I take things less personally."

"After a while, you can let most everything roll off your shoulders," says Josh Childs of Silvertone (69 Bromfield Street, Boston, 617.338.7887). "I think I acquired that around year 10. Now I'm at about 20 years into bartending, so maybe it's just that my hearing is going."

The hearing might be going, but these pros are staying put right where they are. "Be it time on the job, age, experience, or what have you, the Zen I have found is in the profession itself," says Reardon. "I'm not a transient bartender. I want to be doing what I'm doing. I'm proud to be doing what I'm doing, and while I may not be good at a lot of things - I could have a better golf game, but so could everyone I guess - I'm good at this. I actively participate in the process. I love meeting people, and it's pretty much my goal to access each customer and level the playing field."


Natural habitats: Night clubs, exceptionally popular bars, and seemingly everywhere all at once
Appearance: It's really hard to say - they're a blur as they mix 10 drinks at once amid a throng of impatient drinkers.
Diet: Liquid crack? We're not sure how they do it.
Natural enemies: Indecisive types, money wavers, wasted douches, and ballers
Often mistaken for: An octopus

Plenty of night clubs have bartenders who can sling 'em out, but rarer still is one who still manages to bring a degree of quality control to the job. How do they pour with precision while meeting the need for speed? "Patience is extremely important," says Jeremiah Bernstein of Middlesex Lounge (315 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617.868.6739). "It is the greatest of all virtues in a fast-paced bar environment. If you don't have it, you'll be strangling people all night, and that's never good for business." Keeping quality ingredients on hand and setting up ahead of time help too. "As long as you have those in the right quantities, you'll have a great drink. Great syrups, fresh juices, etc. I try to keep our specialty cocktails to no more than three or four ingredients - that way it stays pretty idiot-proof."
No one wins when things get too hectic, adds Courtney Abatsis of The Estate (1 Boylston Place, Boston, 617.351.7000). "It doesn't benefit the club, the customer, or the bartender to make drinks like a crazy person. You end up spilling, breaking bottles, over-serving, serving bad drinks, and getting bad tips if you rush too much. I just try to help the customers as quickly as I can while still providing quality service."

Just don't try to big-time her to get better service in the middle of the club. "Guests say very strange things to impress us. I don't care that you produced Pink Panther 2 the movie, you own two Dunkin' Donuts franchises, your watch is made of three pounds of solid gold, or that you are Paul Pierce's bodyguard and can get me free tickets to Summer Jam." Those are all true stories by the way - sad but true. Bernstein just wishes people wouldn't order such awful shots, like kamikazes, grape crushes, and redheaded sluts. "It really makes me sad when people order redheaded sluts. If you order a Hennessy and Red Bull, I will hose you down with my soda gun."



Natural habitats: Newbury Street, the South End, and rock clubs
Appearance: You can probably figure this one out on your own, but just in case, consult the photos.
Diet: Probably whatever they want. (Not fair!)
Natural enemies: All those other guys trying to talk to her. Not you though - we've got a feeling she really likes you.
Often mistaken for: Aloof model wannabes

Hot bartenders are a dime a dozen, and a lot of bars seem to hire like they're casting for a goofy Maxim ZuZu (474 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617.864.3278) and Good Life (28 Kingston Street, Boston, 617.451.2622), says customers don't underestimate her cocktail knowledge as much as you might think - which is great, but which also kind of screws up our premise here. "I think people are used to hot ladies tending bar, especially at places with great cocktails like Green Street and ZuZu. People seem intimidated as of late with this whole cocktail craze, so I think they are open to guidance from whoever is wielding the jigger." But Jessie Pray, a writer who pens a regular column for a wine magazine and also bartends at Sonsie, says there are still plenty of clueless customers out there. She hates it when people assume that industry workers "are uneducated and do this as a ‘last resort.' I once had a guest tell me that she thought it was great that I was bartending because it was ‘better than dancing.' I was shocked." photo shoot. But it turns out that the qualifications for mixing a good G&T have nothing to do with T&A. On the other hand, far too many people assume that when a bartender is attractive, he or she isn't bringing some real knowledge to the table. Our girls here shoot that theory down hard. Of course, Hayley Thompson-King, a talented musician as well as a barkeep at

If you're a less-than-slick dude, please don't approach these fine specimens as you would some lovely would-be lady friend on the dance floor. Here are some rules to live by: don't waste her time, don't be a dick, and don't flex your spending muscles in an attempt to show off in front of a pretty girl. "Once I was attempting to close out a tab for a guest who had been extremely rude all night," says Pray. "When I asked for his name, he just said, ‘It's the black card,' and returned to his conversation. I got his attention and said, ‘I'm sorry, sir. We have quite a few black cards back here. Can you tell me which is yours?' He was surprised."


Natural habitats: Upscale bars and fancy hotels (and back at their place later, perhaps?)
Appearance: Gentlemanly, well-kept, convivial, and often European
Diet: Whatever you're having, if it's not too much trouble
Natural enemies: None
Often mistaken for: Shrinks, matchmakers, and party hosts

All of the bartenders mentioned here provide courteous, professional service as they pour. But The Charmer is a bartender who makes you feel instantly at ease, like you've been welcomed into someone's home. These types know how to listen, or talk when necessary - but not too much. Keep your eyes open and be ready for whatever comes, and everyone goes home happy, says Bill Codman of Woodward (1 Court Street, Boston, 617.979.8200). "The longer you spend behind a bar, the better you will be at reading and understanding people. Your skill at understanding what a person wants gets better and better over time. Everyone in the world is unique. Every situation has any number of possible outcomes. The more observant the bartender, the happier the guest."

Part of making guests feel welcome is allowing them to dictate how the course of their stay is going to go. "I believe most people go to bars to be social - to interact with one another, meet people, and have new experiences," Codman says. "When I talk to guests, I ask them about themselves. Most people feel comfortable talking about themselves; it is one thing they know for sure. But I never ask too many questions. Freud said, ‘A doctor should be opaque to his patients and, like a mirror, should show nothing but what they show him.' I feel bartenders should do the same. Way safer."

Making a connection with the guest is key, says Laris Gacanovic of M Bar & Lounge (776 Boylston Street, Boston, 617.535.8888). "For example, when a gentleman takes a lady out on the first date and they come to the M Bar, and when I am serving them, I like to find out more details. Maybe it might be a date, birthday, or something else. So I like to be ready in advance to give them an unforgettable evening. I just put myself in their shoes. If I go out or take somebody out and I don't feel a connection with the service staff, most of my evening would feel wasted. For me it's important when guests leave with a smile on their faces."

If you're getting friendly and polite service, make sure you give it back. The server is always going to have exactly as much fun as the guest is having. It's a symbiotic relationship. Says Codman, "I love people who are open and willing to try anything and just have fun." That's where you come in, drinker.