Montenia's is a newish restaurant on State Street in Springfield, run by Montenia Shider, a talented jazz singer who was herself the recipient of an artist grant from the SCC a few years ago. She served catfish and chicken, strawberries and grapes, and a rainbow assortment of fresh pimientos, all with appropriate dipping sauces. The place is extremely clean, the food extremely fresh. Montenia is no stranger to the restauant business, having owned a place further up State Street a few years ago. She cooks just as well as she sings.
Shariff Butler, one of the artists, is a fellow alum of the Dunamis Café, where I used to hang out and sometimes recite a few years back. On Wednesday nights, Crossroads Poetry took over and the place was really cooking. I've never seen anything like it even in much bigger cities. Crossroads went on hiatus, the Dunamis moved and eventually closed, and the poetry scene went underground. So I was glad to see Shariff still at it and even getting a payoff for his persistence.
Justin Cohen, the other artist of my acquaintance, is a friend of the family. His older brother, Eli, and my older son, Ali, have been best friends since middle school. For years it was Ali and Eli, Eli and Ali, seven days a week. It was inevitable that their two little brothers would become friends as well, even though they never attended the same schools.
Eli took up guitar and Ali, drums. They formed a band together. They ran a punk venue called Gasoline Alley together. Ali took up guitar. Eli worked for a record label. Ali went to recording school. He formed another band, then another. Justin took up drums and formed a band. Amir took up drums. Punk rock has been the soundtrack of my life, and the Cohens's, for a dozen years.
Punk bands often have in-your-face names, and band members frequently take their stage names from the name of the band itself. So you have Joe Queer of the Queers, Joey Vindictive of the Vindictives, JJ Nobody of the Nobodys. Also Justin Disease, Erik Elsewhere, Danny Vapid, Danny Panic, Ben Weasel....you get the idea.
Justin Cohen's punk name is Justin Accident. There was a band called the Accidents (Justin's current band is American Business Machines), but at the same time the choice is eerily accurate. As a child Justin was not--to put it kindly--the most coordinated kid. If he could drop something, spill something, or bump into something, he did. And now here he is, not only a competent drummer, but a multi-faceted musician who's playing, touring, managing, recording, deejaying, and at the same time juggling several non-musical pursuits. With persistence, anything is possible.