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Three Cheers for Scottish Dave's
Connecticonians? Connecticuttians? Conn....?
We used to write tour blogs a lot. We haven't done that so much these days, because when you've played hundreds of shows there's nothing new to write about. “Played the same venue in Montreal again, had a great time, ate poutine, the end?” Not exactly Pulitzer Prize material. Most nights, the show we're doing has basically happened dozens of times before.
Saturday night at Scottish Dave's in Clinton, Connecticut was not one of those nights. At the end of the night we were drunk as skunks and happy as clams, outside the bar posing with six medieval swords—real ones—that Scottish Dave had thrust into our hands:
How did we get there? Let's back up.
We'd heard the pub was pretty cool and that Dave was a nice guy so we sauntered into the bar around 5:00. We were quickly greeted by Scottish Dave himself, an affable, jovial, rough-nosed gentleman, who showed us his massive collection of Scottish beer on tap, and said something I've not heard a bar owner say in well over 15 years:
“All drinks are on the house tonight, boys.”
By contrast, at our last gig in Brooklyn we brought 200 heavy drinkers to the very expensive bar and in return were issued two beer tickets each, good only for PBR cans. Scottish Dave saw one of us paying for a can of PBR and basically ripped it out of our hands, demanding that we drink pints of good, free Scottish ale instead.
It is hard to explain the effect this has on a band. When you feel like a small business owner, still recovering from COVID, has the heart to extend that kind of hospitality to you it just sends you on stage with this huge energy and positive vibe. This used to be pretty standard. Today, bands live in the age of the Beer Ticket. Scottish Dave 1, Modern World 0.
Then, Dave informs us that he's cooking up four pots of free food for the band; curries, chilis, meatballs, etc. Scottish Dave 2, Modern World 0.
His bar is this throwback to 1983; old school white tiles on the ceiling, crazy memorabilia everywhere, and just one small TV showing soccer all the time.
And there's a beautiful back patio where every table is painted with the Scottish flag. SD 3, MW 0.
Coming from New York to sleepytown Connecticut is an absolute culture shock. It is widely known for being the most boring, nondescript state in the union. Our mandolin player, born and raised on Staten Island, kept saying “WHY is everyone so goddamned NICE here?” And it’s true: smiley, cheery… very quirky people everywhere. We weren’t five minutes there before a guy at the bar was trying to show us videos of his homemade bagpipes. Several different groups of people invited us back to their place. First, one of the Young Ladies of Virtue True informed a band member that she “just lived around the corner” if that particular Dreadnought wanted to come back to hers. “Band member” indeed. Another very incoherent man on a bike kept offering to “double up” with one of us so we could go back to his place and, as he kept putting it, “Rock some XBOX”. Another group of heavily bearded guys said they had “a fire pit and a fighting ring and some cider back at ours”.
You know that with one of these options you end up chained to a basement wall in a soundproofed sex dungeon miles away from civilization, but which option would that be? So much mystery.
(They should make a reality game show out of this; the timer starts, three contestants cross the state line into Connecticut, and the first one to get chained up in a sex dungeon wins free healthcare for life.)
And I’ll apologize again for saying wanky things like this, but after playing a couple of unbelievably giant festivals in the Netherlands, this night was just what I needed. Those festivals are cool, and it’s a huge privilege to play them, but they are so deeply impersonal and controlled and you’re 60 feet from the audience and nothing unexpected or unsettling ever happens.
Scottish Dave’s is the polar opposite of that. We walked out on stage and shouted “hello, Connecticants!”—pronunciation being key there—before blasting into what I can only assume was our music.
We couldn’t hear anything but it didn’t matter, 100-ish folks just crowded into the little floor and slammed the night away with us. Our mics fell over about 18 times, the instruments kept cutting out, there was beer everywhere, random people kept bringing us more pints to add fuel to the fire, and Scottish Dave kept jumping on stage to sing with us, even though it wasn’t clear he knew the songs. I was this close to fist-fighting King Louie, the violinist, live on stage. Audience members kept answering the call and volunteering to jump up and kiss Jungle Jim (mandolin) straight on the mouth, and he would have kissed the whole bar if they’d been up for it. For the last encore song, we decided to try our version of the Surfin’ Turnips “Cider Cider Cider” and instead of finishing the song, I just handed my guitar to a random super amped audience member and ran out to the patio for a smoke. It was truly one of the most glorious experiences of my life, sitting out there, having a puff, and hearing everything just disintegrate for the next 7-8 minutes, as the band smashed away on random chords and Scottish Dave howled into the mic. And I just listened to it all gloriously fall apart as I stared up at the stars thinking: yup. This is why I play music.
And the bar descended into chaos; the wurlitzer electric organ in the corner had a “polka” setting which we exploited mercilessly, Dave got his guitar out, the Scotch started to flow, some of us barfed outside and others did not… an evening was had.
So CHEERS to Scottish Dave and to our openers, the mighty Bards of Gungywamp, for organizing and absolute banger of an evening. If you’re traveling through New England, add this pub to your must-stop list. We’re hoping to go back every six months or so, in order to become Dave’s greatest and truest friends, so that when he retires we can move up to Connecticut, take over the bar, and slowly turn into nicer, weirder versions of ourselves.
Under one condition, of course: the swords stay.
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