A Little Night Music on Nantucket

A Little Night Music

June 19, 2008

It was the quintessential Nantucket engagement. Boy proposes. Girl accepts. Best friend calls out the news. The crowd cheers. The soon-to-be newlyweds dance.

The couple’s dancing was awkward at best, but the music that moved them was anything but. The Bob Lehman Trio enlivens the Brant Point Grill bar at the White Elephant on weekend evenings now, and Sunday through Tuesday in July and August. The lead singer, Bob Lehman, has a strong and smooth sound, and brings charisma and humor to his cabaret-style performance. Dressed in all black, he lit up the room that night with his smile, his moves, and his energy. Bob sang oldies but goodies like ‘Mac the Knife’, more contemporary tunes like Marc Cohn’s ‘Walking in Memphis’, and the Red Sox anthem, ‘Sweet Caroline’. Good times never felt so good, so good, so good.

At one point, Bob pulled a dollar from his pocket and waved it around as he sang an original, ‘Nantuck-COT’. The song complains about Nantucket prices ($10 a shot on Nantuck-COT), and mocks the summer folk who take over the island with their Range Rovers and attitudes. He then implores rich preppies to take their money to the Vineyard. From the look of faces around the room, he offended a quarter of the audience. Local crowd, I guess.

The band was tight, with Diane Lehman on piano, Jeff Carlson on the drums, and Eric Wedelkin, the high school band teacher, on the upright bass. They were as much fun as Bob as they joked with him between songs. The band even accepted a request (from me) for ‘Amazing Grace’, which they improvised with, okay, I’ll just say it, amazing grace.

I noticed an adorable older man sitting at the table closest to the band, tapping his feet and mouthing the lyrics. He must have been pushing 80, and was decked out in a snazzy white blazer and black shirt. Just as I was heading out, he stopped me and introduced himself as Frank. Frank gave me a serious look and said, “You’re not going to want to miss this.”

Diane Lehman, the pianist who had been hiding behind her instrument all night, emerged from her roost to sing the most soulful and sexy version of “Fever” I’d ever heard. She hit the high highs and low lows spot on, with the same enthusiasm and animation that we had become accustomed to with Bob. As she wrapped up the tune, Frank leaned over to me, nodding, eyebrows raised. “She’s almost dangerous,” he whispered, “Watch out.” Smiling, I headed off to the next adventure.

At The Muse, House music filled the club as people drank themselves into dance mode. DJs Billy Desmond and Simple Simon set the mood and the movers and shakers kept things moving and shaking. Usually the thumping Ung-cha, Ung-cha Ung-cha of house music doesn’t do it for me, but these songs had rhythm and catchy hooks and I couldn’t help but bust a move.

What struck me most was the incredible diversity of the crowd. I remember not so many moons ago when it was pretty homogeneous, pretty white. Between the Brazilians, Bulgarians, and Bostonians, it’s a mini-United Nations shaking their thangs and doing what they want to do. There is an element of sketchiness to the vibe though. A pack of men stood next to the dancing floor ogling women, which made it uncomfortable when I had to Red Rover myself to get to the restroom behind them. Then a few drunkards invaded my space on the dance floor, but never stayed too long when I avoided eye contact and quickly boogied to safety.

Despite the harmless annoyances, and that’s really all they were, I like this new scene – interesting, edgy, and unpredictable. People still tend to stick with their people, but given the shared space and universal language of dance music, there’s plenty of room for mixing it up.

One night, one girl, and two nightclubs worlds apart. That was a good night on Nantucket.

Ali Shriberg resides in Boston and comes to Nantucket whenever she can, which, during the summer, is every weekend. A true ‘Weekend Warrior,’ she brings to the newsletter the perspective of an off-islander, yet is familiar with the local scene, as many of her friends are year-round residents. Ali is a corporate trainer specializing in public speaking and presentation skills, and tutors students of all ages and abilities in writing.

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