Aplscruf's Music, Art, and Literature Blog

Honky Tonk Sweethearts and Country Dave at The Shanty Tavern 2.14.14

Honky Tonk Sweethearts with Country Dave Harmonson

Honky Tonk Sweethearts with Country Dave Harmonson

What better way to spend time with my sweetheart on Valentine’s Day than to see Honky Tonk Sweethearts at The Shanty Tavern in Lake City?

Walking into The Shanty Tavern is like walking back in time several decades. It’s as cozy as an old friend, though, with wood-wrapped walls, beer signs, one pool table, and a tired old L-shaped bar with a laminate top and brass rail.  We chose to sit at the bar for a better view, but there were several tables of various sizes separated by a wide aisle throughout the tavern.

We got there a little early, so we had time to chat with John Spacrotelli, a friendly Italian-American gentleman who charmed our hearts.  He’s been the the proprietor and bartender since 1961.  John poured us a couple of Manny’s pints, and with a big grin, asked if we were sweethearts. “Yeah, I guess so, we’ve been married over 25 years,” I said, smiling back at him.

“What?!” he exclaimed to Pat, with thick eyebrows raised in disbelief.  “Did you marry her when she was a baby?”  OK, I’ll take the compliment, although it was dark in there; he didn’t have an accurate view.  Mr. Spacrotelli said his own sweetheart is 10 years younger than him, so she keeps him feeling youthful.  And how much older is Pat? Two years.  I could see him doing the math.  How old is our son? Eighteen.  Hmmmm. Our bartender was so friendly and accommodating, it was hard to resist answering his probing questions.

John mentioned he came from a big Italian family, so we then got on the subject of traveling to Italy and compared cities we visited.  I dream of going back one day.  I think we’ll have to stop by again just to have a pint and a chat, and pick up where we left off.

L-R: Country Dave Harmonson, Marc and Gaby Bristol

L-R:  Robert Kahr (drums), Country Dave Harmonson, Marc and Gaby Bristol

We also spoke with Country Dave Harmonson before the show.  He’s looking forward to playing at some festivals this summer, including Pickathon in Oregon with Cahalen Morrison. Dave accompanies their band on guitar and steel.  Morrison and Dave also opened for Big Sandy at The Sunset in December.  Several festivals and dates are already popping up and filling with artists throughout Washington.  I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled.  Concert Season is here!


Gaby Maag-Bristol, the bass player, is also a friend from our neighborhood.  It was nice to see her out at a show again, but this was the first time we got to see her play.  She said they hit the retirement home circuit that afternoon, but she enjoyed the gig because the patrons really appreciate their music and enjoy visiting with the band.  I said we’ll be there someday, too.   She added, “…and hopefully we’ll have people come visit and play for us!”


On with the show!   Dave and Marc dressed in bright red satin shirts for Valentine’s Day. The bright red lights reflecting off their shirts gave the stage a crimson glow, a fitting color for the romantic eve.  The band’s sound was polished to a shiny glow, too.  They know their vintage country.  Marc Bristol’s smooth vocals belted out familiar tunes from Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, and Hank Williams, along with some great original songs in the same classic line. Gaby and Robert kept the beat alive and kicking along.  Country Dave’s solo picking on both guitar and steel added so much complexity and depth to the songs.  Watching him play is really a treat.  We first saw him play with The Swearengens at The Tractor a couple of years ago, and I haven’t met his equal on pedal steel.

Meanwhile, the dancers showed up.  At first, just two pairs of two-steppers braved the open floor.  Then about halfway through the set, a big crowd came in and joined them.  About 10 couples were dancing, filling up the entire floor of the little tavern.  I enjoyed watching them spin and step.  A song would end, and they would hurry back to their seats, only to be drawn back again by the next upbeat country song.  I think someone was dancing to just about every song they played.  Great fun!

Country Dave and The Pickin’ Crew were up next, but we couldn’t stay around for Dave’s band.  The long work day took its toll, and we called it a night.  We promised to catch him some other time.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Country Dave Harmonson, Honky Tonk Sweethearts, The Shanty Tavern | , , , , , , | 1 Comment