It's a Matter of Taste

"Really, what's the difference between Billy Joel and Elvis Costello?" "Billy Joel has bad taste."



The scene: Saturday night after guitar class, I walked into the bar next door. There were two guys in the back ordering each other beers and playing pool. I sat alone at the bar with a half-price Brooklyn chocolate stout (it was happy hour!) and a copy of Wax Poetics, waiting for my husband. When he arrived, the bar had begun to fill up, and the music had gotten louder. We sharpened our darts and moved to the back to aim at triple 20s and bull's-eyes for awhile. There was an mp3 jukebox, but tracks cost a dollar apiece, which is an absurd price, even given the vast selection. (We were duped into paying a dollar to hear one track off of The Pretty Things' S.F. Sorrow). The other patrons seemed aware of this jukebox scam, so the bar was listening to the bartender's iPod, and the bartender was playing Billy Joel. Not Uptown Girl or Movin' Out or even Billy Joel's Greatest Hits. A full album - I'm not sure which one - of late 70s, possibly early 80s Billy Joel tracks. When was the last time you - or anyone - listened to a full Billy Joel album? And the thing is, with his jumpy, slightly snotty vocals and snappy, reverby drum beats, it might as well have been Elvis Costello. Except then the indulgent yet banal piano solo would come in and the song would veer off into mediocre musical platitudes. Quite simply, the man has no taste.

I'm not an Elvis Costello fan. Partly because I'm not a fan of obsessive Elvis Costello fans. I don't understand why he gets put on a pedestal for being a new wave punker in Buddy Holly glasses. However, I will give him this: he's no Billy Joel.

After we'd finished our tete-a-tete darts tournament (husband handily won, 4 games to 2), we decided on a whim to go back to Jalopy to see whoever was on the bill.

Billy and Elvis be damned. We were blown away. Andy Laster's Cast A Spell Trio wove mesmerizing modal jazz; I wanted to follow each note. Then Dean Bowman performed jazz-tinged spirituals with heart-stopping soul; his voice is utterly transporting.

It's Saturday. Dare I try for a repeat?