Last night March 21, Darwin’s re-opened in the new location in Sandy Springs. The opening guest was originally supposed to be just Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck solo, but he decided to bring a couple of his Piedmont Playboys, Hobo and Dan Dan The Healing Man, along, as well as Mandi Strachota and special guest Francois Blues to make it a bigger party!
Some of us were just so happy to be back at Darwin’s that we would have loved anybody playing. The fact that we got Mudcat and friends just made the experience even more perfect. And for those of us who have been missing the club since it closed in Marietta last New Years Eve, it was clear that Lindsay Wine and Jonathan Aiken really have created a new Darwin’s with the same magical aura as the old one, with more space and more parking! Lots of other people were there who were new to me and they quickly fell under the spell of Darwin’s and Mudcat, too. The food was just as good, as well, although a few things are now only available during the day., There’s still enough really good stuff to satisfy everyone, and people crowded the bar.
Of course there were a few glitches.. . the power faltered a time or two, possibly due to the storm outside. It was hot at first and they brought in a fan to help with that (which just added to the nostalgia for us “regulars,”) and there were some struggles to get the sound right at first. But despite these “first-night jitters,” it was a wonderful relaxed night, as Mudcat spun his charm on guitar and vocals, Hobo delivered powerfully evocative harmonica, and Dan Dan (Dan Francis) provided percussion and played washbaord like nobody else I’ve ever heard, and I love to hear and see a washboard player, so that is saying something. They played a mixture of gospel numbers, vintage blues, songs full of double-entendres, rags, and even a fantastic version of Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home.” Mandi joined them on a number of the songs. She has a beautiful voice and the same obvious joy in the music the others have. When we were leaving about 10:30 because it was a weeknight and we live 20 miles away, she started singing “Unclouded Day,” and it stopped me in my tracks.”Wait,” I told my husband Ken. “We can’t leave now.” as the song propelled me to the door. Luckily he is used to it and we stayed through the song. But we had to go and he hurried me out just as Mudcat was introducing Francois Blues, I hated to go and miss that.
Bu there were so many moments of joy and recognition. When Mudcat got the first couples up and dancing, my friend Barb said in my ear, “NOW it’s Darwin’s.” And when we were saying goodnight to another couple of friends, Betty and George, Betty asked, “Doesn’t it feel wonderful?” Yes, it did. In fact, it felt like home.
When we wee paying up, Lindsay was at the bar, beaming. “It just looks so good with people in it,” she said. And so it did. Congratulations, guys. Job well done!
One more personal note. It happened to be my birthday and I cannot think of a single place I would have rather celebrated it!