May 5, 2011 – The atmosphere at Lovin’ Cup seemed only slightly more festive than usual for a Thursday evening. It was around 6:30 pm and I had just wrapped up an informal business meeting with a new acquaintance. I considered heading home to just chill for the evening; but, as usual, it was impossible to leave once so many friendly faces smiled back at me from behind the bar. And so, I decided to have one beer.
As the dinner crowd swelled, I reminded myself that it was that second-holiest of recreational drinkers’ holidays, the 5th of May, aka/ “Cinco de Mayo.” From my customary perch at the end of the bar, I noticed the night’s drink specials included Margaritas and Dos Equis or Corona beer. No surprise there, but it made me pause to consider the last time I had a Margarita, and I couldn’t remember for the life of me.
I’d seen the announcement that entertainment would be provided by te well-known Latin Jazz band, The Mambo Kings, but I reminded myself that I really only planned to stick around for a beer… or two. The band set up shortly after I sat down, and they began their first set not long after 7:00 pm. “Nice and early!” I thought.
Though I had seen The Mambo Kings play once before, I was quickly reminded how great they are at their particular genre. From the very first song, I was duly impressed by their flair and impeccable mastery over their respective instruments. Displaying the slickness of a band that’s been together since 1995, The Mambo Kings clearly blended professionalism with passion. They had the full house enthralled from the outset, playing flawlessly and effortlessly through a long first set. I appreciated the many solos – sax, clarinet, bongos, drums, keys, and more. Never did the next song feature the same instrument. It was a delight to watch the animated expressions of the musicians, as they sailed through a long opening set. The appreciative crowd, while not motivated to get up and dance, seemed very much in step with the band’s infectious energy.
Their first set break came and went, and still I remained. I wanted more of The Mambo Kings. The second set was just as enthralling as the first, if not more so. The songs ranged from instantly-recognizable interpretations of timeless jazz classics, to lively Afro-Cuban beats. For me, there couldn’t have been a more enjoyable soundtrack to my Cinco de Mayo, and I’m glad I stuck around to enjoy the band’s entire set. Great music, played to perfection by a group of musicians who love what they do.
As the evening wound down, I was “encouraged” to re-familiarize with the Margarita, and acquiesced, not wanting to draw the ire of any Mexican Gods. I have to say, that decision was just as sound as the choice to stick around for the great music. The drink was made to perfection; the glass ringed with a halo of salt, and just strong enough to suit my taste. The evening was made complete by meeting the parents of a young friend, sharing a few laughs with some old friends, and covering my bases with those Mexican Gods. As always, Lovin’ Cup provided the perfect blend of friendly staff, happy clientele, delicious food and drink, and truly exceptional music. Next year, I won’t waste time debating where to go on the fifth of May. Just save me a spot at the end of the bar.