From the outside, it looked like any ordinary Second Avenue club. Of course, the raves from The New York Times in the windows betokened otherwise.
And the tough guy out front looked, auspiciously, like he might be called Max.
So we went in.
Presto! Instant coolness. The space waslively, elegant, everyone chattering whichway, and filling up fast. It was, it turned out, downtown’s hippest alternative supper-club: Pangea, at 178 Second Avenue.
Then this unreconstructed rogue named Pompie took the spotlight in his fine-lookin’ tux.
Talking about how he owns this joint we’re in, Pompie’s Place, “this little den of iniquities,” and it’s actually not in New York but Chicago, and it’s actually not 2016 but the depth of the Depression, and he’s got some smuggled hooch to wet our palates. “Smells like a woman,” he leered, slapping some on his cheeks like aftershave. Finally, to clinch the deal, he introduced us to his bouncer, and of course it was the tough from outside, and his name, indeed, was Max.
So the music starts. “The Queen of Sad Songs, Ms. Lezlie Harrison” –singing sad and sassy both; sweet and sultry.
She’s joined by Ms. Tanya Holt, who proceeds to sing the blues so you can’t decide whether you want to live or die.
Die, maybe — but not before we’ve sucked down every crumb of these pot-roast inflected burgers with gorgonzola on top.
She’s so weary of misery, she sings, she just wants to linger in the shelter of the night.
The two musicians accompanying them were so fine they brought tears to the eyes. We took no pictures, because we were altogether fixated on the two lovelies. But Ken Peplowski was bending his clarinet like it was a licorice stick. Ehud Asherie was learning us what piano could do in a pinch, in a punch, in moment after moment of peppery accomplishment. Together, they convinced us that, guess what, it is Chicago, and it is the depth of the Depression.
(P.S. Watch for Pompie’s Place popping up elsewhere in NYC this fall…)
The recent performance was done at Pangea, at 178 Second Avenue in New York City.
By our man about town, TIMOTHY FLAPP!