Saturday, August 25, 2007

Remembering Carol's Place

By Joseph Kellard

They don’t make ’em like they used to—not now or back then. I’m talking about bars with live bands, and none on the South Shore was better than Carol’s Place in Island Park during the 1980s and ’90s.

Except for the long-established bars and nightclubs—Paddy McGee’s, the Bridgeview Yacht Club, Coyote Grill, Montego Bay—virtually all of the many bars that dotted Island Park then are now gone, including Carol’s Place, once located at the northeast corner of Austin and Trafalgar boulevards.

My earliest memory of that bar stretches back to the late 1980s, when my then best friend, Victor, and I first stopped by and soon found that the establishment regularly showcased an eclectic array of bands. Carol’s Place featured everyone from Edward “Little Buster” Forehand, a blind, bluesy rock guitarist who once opened shows for B.B. King, and the Volunteers, a Grateful Dead cover band, to the Poets, whose sets were punctuated with Pink Floyd tunes, and Rosary Violet, the hardest and hottest metal-punk band east of Manhattan.

Victor and I shared diverse musical tastes, but we particularly wore out our albums of progressive rock bands like Yes, King Crimson and Genesis. Sonaturally we were drawn to a regular act at Carol’s Place: Primo, a lineup of exceptional musicians (some who performed with Steely Dan and Billy Joel) who wrote their own jazz-rock fusion instrumentals that were a mix of the Dixie Dregs and Weather Report.

Sure, there were similar venues around the South Shore, like the Right Track Inn in Freeport. But what distinguished Carol’s Place was its intimate setting— a single basement-sized room with round tables for two, rickety wooden chairs, a low ceiling, a bar lined with stools right next to the short, compact stage— which had the feel of a Greenwich Village jazz club.

After my friends and I became Carol’s Place regulars, Victor formed his own band, Zulu Groove, a trio that played its first and many other gigs at the Island Park bar. Their sound centered on funky rhythms that Victor rapped over—on such songs as “Can You Turn The Rest of Me On” and “Child’s Play”—evoking the Red Hot Chili Peppers¹ early LPs.

My best memories of the Long Island and city music scenes my friends and I followed back then was those early Zulu Groove shows at our adopted hangout.At each gig, Victor (guitar/keyboards/lead vocals), Rob (bass) and Tim (drums) packed the small venue with admiring and curious bar-goers hungry for good, original music. And between songs, the comedic Victor bantered with the crowd, unleashing his off-beat, sometimes dark humor, providing lots of laughs and great tunes as our posse of guys and gals drank the nights away.

Unfortunately, Carol’s Place closed its doors in the mid-1990s, and since then various restaurants have come and gone there. Another recently openedfor business. Yes, I know, times change, as those years seem almost a world away now, and some people believe all good things must come to an end. But when I drive past that one-story building today, I’m reminded of how fortunate I was to frequent what was once one of the great small venues on the local music scene. The good times I had at Carol’s Place, in my mind, will never end.

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Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

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