Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stay Away Joes Bring Folks to 1400 Bar & Grill

Most people would, after a long work week and an evening of birthday gift shopping, drop into that comfy living room chair and doze off. Not me! I went to see the Stay Away Joes at the newly opened 1400 Bar & Grill in Alameda (California) last night. The music started at 9:30 pm and wound up just at midnight.

The Stay Away Joes are a rockabilly trio featuring strong musical performances and a tight, together sound. Front and center is Diamond Mike the bassist and lead singer, playing the upright like a man possessed, driving the vigorous beat of the surf and early rock and roll sound. Besides playing all the great rockabilly standards, these guys have some originals too, and you can't tell the difference--all are top quality.

Lightnin' Mike plays mean guitar riffs throughout and can solo with the best of them. I've heard this kind of picking on albums, but rarely seen it in person. He keeps a lower profile than the other two guys while he's playing, but what comes out of his instrument is incredible.

Then there's El Gringo McNair. This guy plays a "cocktail" style drum kit, and he's always smiling and moving. Just watching him makes you want to get up and dance. He seems to have the perfect rhythm for whatever the guys are dishing out. The group somehow ends up sounding like more than three guys.

All three members sing, but Diamond Mike is the vocal leader, and he's got a real old-fashioned mike on his stand that lends that early-days-of-rock look--like the mike Elvis sings into on the stamp that came out years ago.

The 1400 Bar & Grill sits on a corner in a building that's stood for a century. The two partners, Mike Cooper and Yanni Placourakis, have updated the restaurant, including installing heavy duty carpet over the former tile floor that adds intimacy and cuts the echo that plagued the spot under its former management. The walls have a variety of interesting decor, from a revolving Schiltz beer sphere to an old Grateful Dead Avalon ballroom poster from next week in what appears to be 1967.

The 1400 serves a full menu featuring "Handfulls" -- burgers, sandwiches, tacos, etc., as well as appetizers, soups, salads, main dishes, and sides (try some Mac & Cheese). There are six beers on tap--and even wine on tap, something I have never ordered. I enjoyed two pints of Guinness early in the evening, stopping early so I could drive home, happy and safe.

For scheduling events or for entertainment bookings, please contact Hiro at

The photo of the band above is from another Alameda venue, but you get the picture. Squint and you're in 1962, livin' it up.

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