The above picture doesn't do justice to the scene that day at The Shanti. As we were walking back from our relatively alcohol-free lunch we heard music from the windows as we passed by. The sign on the corner read Blue Grass Saturday: Red Ass Jones. Yeah, we HAD to go in at that point.
I had only been in The Shanti once before and it struck me as somewhat of a hippy bar. I hadn't seen so much tie-dye being worn since my high school courtyard circa 1994. That night a jam band had been playing too so it all kinda worked. Because of that experience I wasn't sure what kind of Blue Grass we were talking about. Hell, I wasn't even sure what Blue Grass sounded like.
The place was packed for it being 4 in the afternoon and it was quite obvious they were there for the band. The scene was nuts. There were people dancing, singing, and calling out to the band. I was sure many of the people knew each other. We ordered some beers and began to take stock of Red Ass Jones. First of all, the music was fucking awesome. It's extremely reminiscent of the Soggy Bottom Boys from O' Brother Where Art Thou. We were immediately hooked and for us that is no easy task. We are definitely in music snob territory. The smallest thing can turn us off.
Not only were the songs fantastic and often funny, but these guys were extremely experienced musicians. Not a note was off. Multiple members sing and all of them well for being so obviously drunk. (Part of the charm) Keep in mind this is no small band. I count 8 from memory: Mandolin, Electric guitar, Stand-up Bass, Drums, Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Fiddle, and Washboard. And perhaps their greatest charm is the character each one of these guys exudes. Every single one of them has something very specific and different about them. The drummer is some sort of combination cowboy/hipster with his cowboy hat and black-rimmed glasses. The Stand-up Bassist looks like a character from a Smokey and the Bandit movie while the Mandolin player may have been part of the Grateful Dead. It's an eclectic array of guys and the one's that speak to the audience are smart and witty. It was a concert experience like none other we'd ever had.
This was all compounded by the crowd. One guy in particular really. J.R. is an older man, let's guess 58. He wears a two-tone half and half button up rodeo shirt with J.R. embroidered on the collar. On his head sits a somehow professionally-made-looking cowboy hat made from Miller Lite 12-pack boxes. He also wears a large belt buckle. Another funny thing about J.R. is that he tips the band every five minutes or so while requesting them to "play me a Gospel song". He does this in between dancing with his lady and what I mean by dancing is grabbing her ass a whole lot on the dance floor. J.R. was a decidedly awesome addition and also quote fodder for the rest of the weekend. The band was amused by J.R.'s antics and played along with him without being assholes. They even did play that gospel song for him.
3 hours later, drunk and tired from having a ludicrously good time for it being late afternoon, we left The Shanti with our minds blown. After a short rest we went out that night with a new respect for Blue Grass music. We even gave playing it ourselves a try later that night. Not good.
What is good is that Red Ass Jones plays The Shanti every other Saturday between 4pm and 7pm. I can't recommend it enough. Be sure to say hi to me when you're there. I'll be the dude pounding the Boulevard Wheats and nodding my head approvingly Mr. Miyagi style.