Here is the comprehensive list of things cooler than a xylophone: Um...everything.
Sunglasses, cheetahs, an old cell phone, vacuum cleaners, poetry, picture frames, poetry about picture frames, lightbulbs, A League of Their Own on DVD, whatever. They're all better. Nobody has ever said, "You know what would make this situation better? A mother-effin' xylophone, baby, that's what." It just doesn't happen.
Now, here is the list of things cooler than a xylophone when veteran xylophonist Cinco Calderon is behind them: Zilch.
Nothing. At. All.
Charlie Sheen could be riding a white tiger with solid diamond testicles through The Men's Club (3303 Sage). Doesn't matter.
When Calderon has mallets in his hands, beating blood and glory out of the bars, it seems less like he's playing a xylophone and more like he's destroying God's piano with thundersticks. He is king.
And that's why at this very moment, everyone inside of the tiny Richmond Chill Bar (4704 Richmond) is enraptured, listening as Calderon tink-tink-tanks his way through a blues solo.
The xylophonist is flanked by the excessively talented bass player Spare Time Murray, who is every bit the sleepy blues dynamo his name implies, and Little Terry Rogers, a harmonica player/vocalist who sounds like he's been grown from the earth specifically to sing the blues; he even sings into one of those vintage steel microphones.
The triumvirate forms Little Terry and the Blues Birds, Chill's Monday-night house band for more than two years now. The fluctuating lineup occasionally includes a drummer and guitar player, and teenage prodigy Rebecca Laird sometimes sits in on guitar, but mostly it's just these three guys.
When you drive by it, which you've almost certainly done several times, Chill looks like little more than a decent restaurant. Food is available, but that's hardly all the bar is.
Tiled floors, low ceilings and a moderate amount of unassuming decor give the venue a living-room feel. A curious shelf situated along one wall holds a bunch of old board games and some trophy fish made from what appears to be parts of an old car.
"Sometimes I'm so tired from working — I work my ass off — that I come here to wind down," says Ross Paine, 24, employed in something he calls "orthopedic sales."
"We've been coming here for a few years," Paine adds. "I grew up around a lot of pretentious people, so I'd rather not hang around with them."
At one point in the evening, a woman and her large golden Labrador retriever walk in and sit down. She chooses a seat; he opts for the floor.
The dog — Slugger, as it were — finds a few empty hands willing to scratch and pat him. When the hands' owners grow tired of that, they simply say, "Go lay down," and that's exactly what he does. No one blinks.
"He's a regular," says his owner with a smile, before starting a conversation with two strangers.
So goes the night, with people vacillating between listening to Little Terry, Spare Time and Cinco and relaxing on the front-side patio. A dog waits for people to pet him, and some guys at the back of the room shout out song titles for the band to play.
Just chilling. In a bar. On Richmond.
Little Terry and the Blues Birds; Snoop Dogg
Three things: First, you can e-mail Little Terry and the Blues Birds at firstname.lastname@example.org. Second, bartender Jaime Cobden tells us Wednesdays are Chill's busiest nights. That's the bar's open-mike night, which is really more of an acoustic-music showcase. Third, Snoop Dogg is at House of Blues Friday. Somehow, some way, he's been coming up with funky-ass shit, like, every single day for almost two decades. Respect.
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