Piano man transforms Salty's into swanky cabaret
Not at all well? Sad, but true. Gasping for air? Likely. Being called to the light? Perhaps. But romance in Seattle is not dead, not yet...
Not at all well?
Sad, but true.
Gasping for air?
Being called to the light?
But romance in Seattle is not dead, not yet.
Spend a Friday night in the lounge of Salty's on Alki, for instance, and you see Seattle — famously indifferent Seattle; cool, wet, cynical Seattle — can actually bask in a romantic ambience. (Technically, this is West Seattle, but we're still well within the 206 area code.)
The lighting is soft, mainly from candles, to accentuate the view of Elliott Bay and the skyline of Seattle proper. A big, roaring fireplace casts a visual warmth, even if you're not close enough to feel the heat. Cozy couples and chummy double-daters sip cosmopolitans and Bloody Marys in fancy glasses, some nibbling at exotic desserts.
The candles, the fireplace, the water-to-skyline view, the cocktails ... and, to top it off, a skillful piano-playing lounge singer, Victor Janusz. His performance seems to blend in with the atmosphere, like an olive floating in a well-crafted martini.
As his selections come to a graceful end, the crowd greets him with not just, "polite" muffled clapping, but appreciative, robust applause. His piano is on the raised level of the lounge, and around him sit his most devoted, tuned-in fans.
Ranging from old-school pop to light jazz, he plays the likes of Sinatra, Lou Reed, singing casually and pleasingly.
At times, one — well, one schooled on early "Saturday Night Live," at least — almost expects him to slide into Bill Murrayland, but he is too sincere and talented for parody. He has a background as an actor and director, yet here is far more casual than theatric, with an almost humble performance style.
When Janusz stops for a break, the atmosphere instantly goes from sexy to mundane. You hear the clanging of plates in the dishwashing room, boring conversations, silverware from the night's dinners being sorted, water running ...
Fifteen minutes later, all is right, again. Janusz has returned, laid his finger on the keyboard and is skillfully strumming instrumentals. He plays a few unusual arrangements, and it takes a while to recognize "Deacon Blues." On the Steely Dan number ("They got a name for the winners in the world/I want a name when I lose"), he sounds like Vince Guaraldi meets Billy Joel.
Janusz has a new CD called "Cosmo Street," his first as a singer-pianist, following the instrumental "Hands Solo." He plays Friday nights at Salty's, and also entertains during the restaurant's popular Saturday and Sunday brunches. There is no cover to hear him on Friday nights (8:30-midnight), but you have to pony up $28.95 for the brunches. For more, visit www.saltys.com or www.victorjanusz.com.
Also in West Seattle, on a far less refined and rowdier tip, the Rat City Rollergirls kick off their 2005 roller-derby season with a skating match/exhibition at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Southgate Roller Rink, 9646 17th Ave. S.W. ($15). Seattle's punky/New Wave band the Briefs will provide the halftime entertainment. After this, the Briefs take off on a tour of the U.K. (Glasgow, Oxford, Manchester, London, Exeter), with Flogging Molly.
"When I finally got to see them live," Kurt Cobain said of Shonen Knife, "I was transformed into a hysterical 9-year-old girl at a Beatles concert."
The Japanese girl-punk band plays Chop Suey at 9 p.m. Thursday ($13). Shonen Knife has been described, quite appropriately, as the Bangles played at Ramones speed.
Co-owner Marcus Lalario unveiled Capitol Hill's smartly renovated War Room (722 E. Pike, formerly Blu Video Bar) Tuesday night, showing off an open-air deck that alone would make the club a hot spot. After a private party on Saturday night, the War Room officially opens Sunday night, with the hip-hop party "Yo! Son" — which started at Chop Suey, then moved to Neumo's. Circle of Fire will host a b-boy night on Mondays, drum-and-bass DJs spin on Tuesdays, and live bands are booked on Thursdays. For more info: www.thewarroomseattle.com.
Tommy Lee, the drummer from Mötley Crüe who went on to Pamela infamy (which, in the rock world, is not very different from fame), attempts to be a DJ at Club Medusa at 10 p.m. Thursday (women free, men $10).
According to the Los Angeles Times, "The Kills are an edgy rock duo from London who make music so sexy and unsettling it can make you sweat on a cold night." According to Time Out New York, "Live, the Kills are simply stunning." The Kills, touring with a new album called "No Wow," play the Crocodile at 10 tonight ($12).
The frenzied British dance-punk band Bloc Party plays from its debut "Silent Alarm" at Neumo's at 10 p.m. Saturday ($10).
Tom Scanlon: firstname.lastname@example.org
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.