OneThe tiny West Philly bar, Fiume, provides music two evenings a week, typically there is Jazz on Sunday nights at 8pm and Country/ Bluegrass on Thursday nights at 10pm. Fiume is honestly one of the best venues for small, intimate shows.
I went one Sunday evening with my husband and saw the jazz band– Red Hot Ramblers. And at 7:30 pm all of the seats were filled (so if you want a seat, arrive very early). Fiume is a great place for chill shows, it is not at all loud, compared to other bars. Instead of yelling, casual conversation is what one typically hears. The bands play in a little window alcove. The alcove is created by four windows with a sign that reads “Dont touch windows” (pictured above, photo by Olivia Alger). Simple and to the point.
Red Hot Ramblers began rather abruptly and the talking stopped at their sudden start. The trumpet, steel guitar, and tuba filled the room with lovely twenties jazz, they even dressed the part! The man playing the steel guitar added extra flavor to his playing with head bopping and a goofy smile that let the audience in on his fun. It worked, and everyone in the room became drawn in– enthralled.
The lead musician even pulled out a kazoo adding fun flair to their first song and smiles in between breaths. The song ended and the room up-roared with clapping. The lead responded with a “Thank you, thank you. We are the Red Hot Ramblers and we are welcomed to be here at our favorite speakeasy.” He smiled and introduced the names of the previous and next song.
“Ah one, ah two, a one two three” and with that, the next jovial tune began. This song was even more exciting than the first. Midway through, the lead musician put down his trumpet and instead picked up a trombone with a muffler that really brought the atmosphere back to the twenties. He eventually put the trombone to the side to sing loudly, which was very reminiscent of early jazz singing– no mic needed. Everyone sipped their craft beer or fresh cocktail and listened. One woman gently swayed to the music as she ate her Ethiopian food brought up from downstairs (a perk of this venue). The guitar man unexpectedly screamed as a part of the song– making it all just feel light and improvised.
The song ended and the tuba man noticed the big black spider hanging above their heads “Hallelujah, it’s raining spiders” is what he sang to the tune of “It’s Raining Men” and much of the audience laughed.
Now that their song ended, talking very quickly took over the room. The lead musician announced the next song over the now fairly loud chatter– “This one’s by Louis Armstrong entitled…” Once the song began, the talking got softer but didn’t entirely snuff out. This track was “from the thirties” yet the instrumentation remained very similar to the first song from the twenties; the tuba provided the bass line as the trumpet and guitar brought a level of playfulness to the tune. The lively track eventually came to a close and the woman eating the Ethiopian food yelled–“Now that’s an ending!”
At this point in the night, the band leader announced, “alright ladies and gentlemen, we are playing for tips. There’s a green pitcher that the bartender will pass around and I’d like for you to give me all your money, folks.” The audience laughed. “And don’t forget to tip your bartender” he casually added. We passed the pitcher around the room and the band started up again. Ya see, attending these shows at Fiume are free, so tipping is the only way the band makes money. A few seconds into the third song, a second trumpeter entered the room just in time for his dueling trumpets duet with the lead. They sounded lovely together.
Well, that’s just a taste of what it’s like seeing red Hot Ramblers at Fiume! I very much enjoyed all of it; I will surely be back to Fiume for another show, and I recommend that you go too. In fact, the Red Hot Ramblers often have shows at Fiume, looks like their next show is tomorrow– Sunday April 3rd!