Buffalo-born, Raleigh-based vocalist Lisa Veronica Wood was looking for a band that could do one thing and one thing only: its dang job!
“I stopped my last jazz band because the guys weren’t professional, as far as rehearsal and showing up,” Wood says.
“They would sub out their work. I’d get to a gig, and they wouldn’t be there. There would be some guy I never met before. ‘Hey, I’m doing percussion for you tonight’ – you know, that kind of deal.”
Thankfully, she knew Jim Crew, a veteran keyboardist born and bred in Raleigh.
“I’d work with Jim some, and I really respected him and loved the way he played and also just his general acumen,” she says. “Like, he’s just very professional, but also kind. And I wanted to be in a band with him. So I called him up and I said, ‘Let’s do a band.’ ”
Crew introduced Wood to three other Raleigh-based musicians – Oxford sax man F.O. Finch III, Durham bassist Aaron Bittikofer and Baltimore drummer Ed Butler – that he’d performed with, and Sidecar Social Club was born.
Started in January of this year, the quintet formed with the intent of jazzing up any social environment with their vivacious covers. But don’t call them a modern jazz quintet. Considering that they cover anyone from Billie Holiday to Patsy Cline, jazz is not all they do.
“It’s in the jazz style,” says Finch, “but it’s kind of a variety.”
“There’s no one particular thing,” says Crew. “We like modern bands that are recorded today and we like bands that recorded in the ’30s.”
“Yeah, I was just gonna say that,” adds Wood. “It’s not country, it’s not jazz, it’s not rock. It’s good songs, if we all agree … We don’t push anybody into doing a song. It be should be consensus – you know, between the five of us – that we think this is a good song.”
You can regularly find the Club performing at two spots.
They do Humble Pie Restaurant every second and fourth Wednesday of every month, and they are the resident house band for the N.C. Museum of Art’s monthly “Art in the Evening” event, happening Friday. Band members say the NCMA gig has been getting them regular fans.
“Suddenly, tons of people started showing up to every gig,” says Crew, who says he’s “not the oldest person in the band.”
“It’s been great for everybody,” says Butler, who says he’s “probably the oldest person in the band.”
“It’s been great for us, but it’s also been great for the museum,” Butler adds. “They’ve actually said they really like us.”
For these musicians, Sidecar Social Club is pretty much what the title implies, a collective of people just hanging out and having a good time together. Even if they are called on to perform inside and outside the Triangle (they recently ventured outside the state to perform at the South Carolina Jazz Festival), they’re not deluding themselves into thinking this could lead to something bigger (although they wouldn’t mind if it did). Besides, they already have good jobs and families. At this point in their lives, doing music is a fun, side thing.
“From my point of view, going on the road and making albums does not pay,” says Crew. “Playing gigs locally pays as good as those do.”
“Everybody’s kind of two feet on the ground, I think, going into this,” says Finch, “so no one’s depending on it. It makes everybody kind of sit back and enjoy it.”
Adds Wood, “To me, it’s fun – if you’re with the right people.”