Five O’Clock World | Thom Enright

For a while I was a nightlife columnist. The gig was for a newspaper that shall remain nameless, only because they were so crappy to me. Somehow I thought the job meant club hopping every night and drinking for free. Ha! They were keeping the free drinks in the same place as the paychecks I never got. Here’s one of my favorite columns from 2005.

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

It’s 9 o’clock on a chilly, rainy Monday night, and maybe a dozen people are in Billy Goode’s. Half are leaning on the bar. The other half are holding down tables. They’re all working folks who stopped by after a hard day at the mines and just got too comfortable to go home.

Compared with some other pubs in town, Billy Goode’s is pretty laid back. There’s no hyperactive pickup scene here, no hordes of self-conscious poseurs. The decorations are softball trophies and neon beer signs. Tonight’s dinner special is The Elvis, something appropriately involving spicy pork. And the music, right now anyway, is at a decibel level such that people can converse civilly, so they do.

Tonight’s opening act is the Killdevils. Despite the scary name, it’s just Jake Haller and Chris Monti with acoustic guitars. They respectably acquit an odd array of genres — Irish ballads, American folk, Bo Diddley. Some drunk requests “Sweet Home Alabama.” The duo plays a rag called “Indiana.” Nobody seems to mind.

To call Billy Goode’s a reliable neighborhood joint is sort of an understatement. It’s the oldest continuously operating tavern in Newport. And yes, there really was a Billy Goode. He was the club’s first owner, says current proprietor Kevan Campbell, who’s been its steward for the past 15 years.

Being right across the street from City Hall and near the harbor, Billy knew everyone in town, says Campbell, “from politicians to sailors. Goode started the club prior to Prohibition. He was the first one ever arrested. They held him overnight, played cards with him, and sent him home. He opened a speakeasy called The Mission. The day Prohibition ended, he nailed up the Billy Goode’s sign. Later on there was a fire in the neighborhood, and this was the only place that didn’t burn. Goode poured beers the whole time.”

Campbell says that in gratitude, Newport bestowed upon his predecessor a great honor: William J. Goode Day. I don’t know if this last part is true, but I like the way it sounds.

Goode may be a tough act to follow, but Campbell has a talent all his own — running the kind of place where top-shelf performers enjoy hanging out. Country blues legends Tom Russell and Paul Geremia play here, and John Lincoln Wright does a show every Christmas. 1960s pop icon Barry Cowsill drops in all the time and jams. Tonight’s headliner is blues guitar whiz Thom Enright, accompanied by drummer Mike Warner and bassist Dean Cassell. They don’t have a band name. May as well call them Roomful Meets Beaver Brown, since that’s where else they worked at one time or another.

It’s hard to believe music this good is free, but it is. “There’s never a cover, so I don’t pay the bands much,” admits Campbell. He’s as amazed as anyone that musicians of this caliber keep coming back.

Enright explains it this way: “It’s my therapy session. We can do whatever we want. I’ve met some unbelievable folks here who really dig what we do. It’s one of the most comfortable places I’ve been in a long time. And I’ve been in a few places.”

At 10 pm the Killdevils split to a booth in the back and tuck into some hot food. By the time I amble by in hopes of sighting whatever an Elvis is, their plates are clean.

The Killdevils may have hoovered The King, but the music lives on as Enright’s trio takes over. More people come in. Three TVs are going (two football games, one baseball). The boxes ought to be muted but aren’t. The band ratchets up a notch and lights into blues whompers like “Goin’ to New York” and a rumba called “Too Many Cooks.”

By 10:30 the place is crammed. Did I mention this is a Monday night?

Now a gaggle of Salve Regina preppies bursts in. It’s a crapshoot, really, whether they’ll appreciate this kind of not-Top-40 music enough to stick around. They nest at the last available table, directly in front of the band. Next thing you know, they’re flailing with wild abandon on the dance floor, which is really just a postage stamp-sized extension of the stage. Every once in a while the band jumps backward to avoid flying body parts, but they never miss a beat.

By 11 o’clock the pub is wall-to-wall synergism. Men are lighting pretty girls’ cigarettes. People are laughing, swing dancing, cheering for the band and touchdowns. Beer is flowing. Billy would approve. Enright’s crew is doing a shockingly zestful spin on a Dylan chestnut, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” And seriously, it is.

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Thom Enright’s music is available here:

Read more about Thom Enright here (Enright Has Left the Building).

DEAD SPOT on AmazonCopyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved
Sydney Schuster
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7 thoughts on “Five O’Clock World | Thom Enright

  1. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here frequently. I am quite sure I’ll learn a lot of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

  2. Thank you, George! I’m very happy that you like my blog. Would you like an email notification when I post something new? On my main page there’s a blog subscription area (the right-hand side). Just enter your email addy and click Sign Me Up!. I try to post a couple of times per week.

  3. Pingback: Enright Has Left the Building | Sydney Schuster

  4. Pingback: Five O’Clock World / The Old No.7 Band | Sydney Schuster

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