Update: Angel Town Combo have canceled jazz brunches due to heat and poor air quality, but continue to perform 7-11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Barkley.
Angel Town Combo’s musicians are back at the Barkley in South Pasadena, for both jazz brunch and dinner on Sundays. Specifically, they’re out in the parking lot, under a canopy, distanced from masked waitstaff and diners.
“We got three 10- by 20-foot canopies, and we brought tables and chairs outside and distanced them 6 feet apart, and everyone’s covered by the canopies,” explained Mark San Filippo, who anchors their jazz and blues standards from the drum throne behind Hammond B3 organist Carey Frank and tenor saxophonist Kyle O’Donnell.
“We’re trying to be really careful about making people feel safe and comfortable. I bring extra masks and put them out with sanitizer, in case people want that. We’ve gotten no complaints from neighbors. So far, it’s been good.”
Since forming about six years ago, Angel Town had been a house favorite at the Barkley until the coronavirus pandemic shut down nightclubs and restaurants in March. In July, the stripped-down lineup did a test run of their “social distancing with music” arrangement, and plan to continue playing there every Sunday, per San Filippo. For three Saturdays in September they will also accompany singers with whom they’ve frequently worked: Maria De La Vega (September 19) and Gretje Angell (September 26).
“It’s all the people who used to come—this jazz crowd of underground regulars who used to frequent the Barkley,” he said of the small but dedicated audience turning out to support them. “One guy’s a veteran; every time he comes out, he says, ‘This is my jazz therapy.’ He’s a paratrooper. Another guy has MS and is in a wheelchair; he comes out every week, it gets him out of the house. … It’s like a Cheers bar—I can name the people.”
Anxiety is unavoidable in this coronavirus climate, and San Filippo acknowledged feeling his share: “I don’t want anyone to get hurt or sick, and everybody has a different level of comfort with what’s happening. I don’t know how to add up the risk vs. reward factor.” Performances are live streamed via Facebook Live for anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable attending in person.
“Music really builds community, in my opinion, and you can see it’s working. … I’m not trying to put business over the health of people. But I also see the healthy benefits of people coming outdoors and listening to live music and participating in live music, and people are bringing their families out too.
“It feels socially acceptable,” he added, citing other jazz acts who are performing outdoors. “We hadn’t been performing live since mid-March, so I think everybody’s thankful and excited. It’s the type of thing we have to learn how to move forward with, because it [the virus] is not going away any time soon.”
Angel Town Combo performs in the Barkley Restaurant & Bar parking lot, 1400 Huntington Drive, South Pasadena, for brunch and dinner sets on Sundays, 10 a.m. to noon and 7 to 9 p.m. No cover charge; all ages welcome; everyone must wear a mask and practice social distancing. Info: 626-799-0758. AngelTownCombo.com, thebarkleyrestaurant.com