By Maisie Sheidlower
The self-proclaimed “vintage Cleveland establishment” has two sections: a wine bar and a dive bar. Though each space has its own entrance, some patrons opt to walk beyond the twee singer crooning in the wine bar to access the dive bar, which is decorated not unlike a dorm room. Jack Daniels labels and crude paintings of Jimi Hendrix clutter wall space not taken up with fairy lights and sports jerseys. This is The Brother’s Lounge.
The bar boasts nightly performances, and February 13th offered up The Bad Boys of Blues. The group ascended the stage, and wished a vague “happy birthday” before launching into Fire on the Bayou by The Meters. Mike Barrick, donning a top hat that looked like it had been hit with a mallet, gave a fun yet overindulgent bass solo before goateed, greasy poney-tailed drummer Jim Wall took a turn. Luke Pernicci then slightly pursed his lips as he shredded his blue and white guitar, gently shaking the instrument to indicate the notes he wanted us to nod our heads to.
By the third song, a middle aged lesbian couple were drunk enough to dance. It was Hank Williams’ Mind Your Own Business, and the booze-woozy audience did nothing of the sort. Luke masterfully replicated Williams’ folksy inclination to stretch one syllable words to two (“our ri-ight” “to fi-ight”). The room seemed fond of his now signature, lip-puckered, guitar neck-shaking solos — so explicitly sonorous that Luke might have made that adjective a specific goal.
Bill Withers’ Kissing my Love highlighted bald, bearded guitarist Michael Bay, whose vehement set was tempered by that cloying ‘70s ballad. Throughout his shiver-inducing performance, the blues doyen kept his eyes closed, and many in the crowd followed suit. The rendition, which took a more soulful approach to the funk song, was severe and seemingly unending — in a wholly satisfying way. Registering Michael’s hands as weapons feels nowhere near cautionary enough.
For Sweet Virginia by The Rolling Stones, Luke relaxed his previously sultry voice into a droll, classic, country cadence: not Cash, not Williams, but something Other. A voice with gravel in it, but one that made you want to pet the hair of its owner. Michael’s guitar was emulating roots rock like it was doing so of its own free-will, and Mike’s formerly exhibitionist bass was now schmaltzy and pastoral, backed by Jim’s rustic drums.
But then, with a single, penetrative bass chord, we were back to blues. But a blues piloted by a more frugal Luke, who did away with lip puckering and guitar shaking, instead closing his eyes, and using his thumb to pluck the cleanest guitar solo of the night, one that reminded the crowd that tomorrow was Valentine’s Day. A solo that made you quickly shake your head as you questioned whether you would still be at the bar as it became midnight…and whether, perhaps, Luke would be? A solo so resonant, evocative, almost biblical, that it didn’t matter whether or not he would, because he had already given you everything he possibly could.