Swing Night at the Main Street Public House

“What do you get when you pile a bunch of great musicians into a small space for a night of swing dance music?” I wondered to myself heading into the Main Street Public House in Philmont, NY last Thursday. I opened the door still pondering this philosophical question and stepped inside. Turns out the answer was fun, lots of it. The Main Street Public House is a great place, and the food is not your average bad bar grub but delicious fare made from local, organic fruits and vegetables and free range meats. The pub is a place where people can drink margaritas and beer (not necessarily together), and the bands are as varied as funky rock, country inspired folk, and swingin’ jazzy blues. The band playing on Thursday fell into that last category. They didn’t really have a name per se, although at the show they took to calling themselves the Hot Club of Mellinville (Mellinville is the town that borders Philmont and is just as small, if not smaller).

Jonathan Talbott is the mastermind behind this venture, and what an exciting venture — and adventure — it is. He’s the one who decided the pub needed a night of swing, and how right he was! The place was packed, and nearly everyone was dancing — a difficult feat considering just how packed the pub was and just how small the place is, but the crowd managed all the same. Many of the musicians playing on Thursday are in other bands or are involved in their own musical endeavors, so hearing all of them together was a real treat. The other musicians blasting through tunes along with Jonathan (Mother Fletcher, Simple Machines) were Seth Travins on upright bass (Chops, Sauerkraut, and the Velvet Frog; The Minivans), Teddy Weber on lap steel guitar (The Wiyos), Lyon Graulty on clarinet and sax, Peter Jung on guitar, Mark Herschler on guitar, Michael Farkas on harmonica and washboard (The Wiyos), and Ian Solomon on drums (Simple Machines). It brought a smile to my face just seeing all of them together, and when they started playing my smile only got bigger. Some of the most cheerful, synergistic sounds I’ve ever heard were produced by the impromptu octet. As Peter yelled out when Teddy took a solo, “I love that sound!” So do I, and steel guitar makes my heart melt faster than an ice cream cone on a summer day… Michael too lent some beautiful solos that would melt the coldest of hearts. The duo rhythm guitars of Peter and Mark gave gorgeous depth to the band’s sound, fiddle soared blissfully in a gypsy-inspired fashion, and Ian played with drum brushes creating a soft, suave feel.

The band started out playing mainly instrumentals, but as the night progressed different members took turns singing. Highlights included a killer rendition of “Summertime” sung by Michael, a delightful “On The Sunny Side of the Street” which Seth sang, a great version of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” sung by Peter, and one of my favorites, “Dinah,” which featured the vocals of Michael again. The number of members in the band allowed musicians to step out into the audience to dance, which a few did at various times throughout the night. There’s no removal between band and audience, and it’s that integrated sense of community that makes the shows so special. Jonathan is trying to start a monthly night of swing music and dance, but because many of the musicians are in other bands the line-up will likely be slightly different each time. No matter, though. I don’t know who will be playing the next time (if there is a next time, which there hopefully will be), but I don’t care. All I know is that when a swing night is held again, I’ll be there.

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