The chorus coming from the stage had a mantra-like quality, not to mention an air of New Wave-era funk.
“Find a city,” it went. “Find myself a city to live in.”
The tune, of course, was the 1979 Talking Heads brooder Cities and the ensemble delivering it was a Knoxville tribute band called Same As It Ever Was. But the chorus, perhaps unintentionally and somewhat indirectly, spoke to the evening at hand. Same As It Ever Was, after all, was serving as the inaugural band for the new Dame. The now-fabled local club re-opened last night in the Main Street Live complex where A1A used to do business.
True to the tune’s lyrics, The Dame had no home, no “city to live in” for the better part of the summer. Well, it had one until its lease was bought out and the West Main St. building it inhabited was leveled.
Last night, though, The Dame not only had a city to live in. It was, at least for the evening, the toast of downtown. I arrived around 10:15 – early by nightspot standards. At that point, the A1A dance club, which has also become part of the new Dame, was essentially a lounge. While Same As It Ever Was was already ripping through Wild Wild Life, you saw the band initially on a sizeable video screen (and numerous televisions) before you ever made your way to the live music stage.
Along the dance club/lounge’s walls were remembrances from the old Dame: posters for shows by Alejandro Escovedo, Son Volt and, curiously, the band that actually included two of the four original Talking Heads, the Tom Tom Club.
There was the wall size painting of Miles Davis from his 1961 In Person at the Blackhawk album. There was the old Dame’s original bar sitting dead center in the lounge as a sort of utility table. And on a sparsely attended upper level, a lone TV was tuned to AMC. What was on? Chuck Norris’ Braddock: Missing in Action III. Talk about incentive to check out the band.
The live music stage area was, by 11 p.m., pretty well packed. Its design hasn’t changed much from the A1A days, aside from a few new coats of paint. It remains a large room mostly encased by brick walls – not the most engaging set up for acoustics. But as Same As It Ever Was slipped a version of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance into the middle of And She Was (hey, isn’t that cheating?) the sound seemed sufficiently ripe. Crystal clear? No. But it was still a definite step up for the performance space..
Mostly, though, the vibe was inviting. There was just enough of the old Dame spirit – from the posters and familiar bits of furniture to the staff that was regularly greeting patrons at the door with “Welcome back” – to make the new Dame seem familiar. There was also so little of the A1A feel left – especially in the dance club turned lounge (which reverts back to a dance club in the wee hours) to make the venue feel “de-frat-ified” and modestly more bohemian.
Best of all, though, was the simple realization that The Dame was back and that Lexington again has a proper showcase music club for local and national artists. The facility has a city to live in once more and, in turn, the city turned out to make the venue part of downtown again. Making my exit, around midnight, I saw the very thing that affirmed The Dame’s rightful new place on the other end of Main St.: a line of about 50 people waiting to get in. Now that’s you want from an reopening night.