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Club Meadows celebrates 25 years of live entertainment

Date: 1/8/2015

EAST LONGMEADOW – The black tiles of Club Meadows’ marquee has featured the names of dozens if not hundreds of musical and entertainment acts week after week for more than two decades. 

Manuel “Manny” Coelho, the club’s owner and operator, said Club Meadows has always been a music venue since it was founded in 1989. The club recently celebrated its 25th anniversary on Dec. 10, 2014.

“Hundreds of bands [have played at Club Meadows],” he added. “[Bands have started] and ended and new bands [have come in]; it’s always that way. There’s been some popular bands like AC/DC tribute band Back in Black or 1980s [tribute] bands like Aquanett. Now, we have country music that people like to come and see.”

Coelho said there is entertainment at Club Meadows usually every week from Wednesday to Saturday. Bands perform every Friday or Saturday and an open mic takes place on Thursdays beginning at 8 p.m.

“Right now, I don’t think any other place has the biggest bands [come to the East Longmeadow area] like Club Meadows [does],” he added.

Matthew Macri, bass guitarist and vocalist in Aquanett, said his band has been playing at Club Meadows since 2000 and the group averages about six or seven shows at the club per year. Aquanett’s most recent show at Club Meadows was on Dec. 31. 

“A lot of other places in our area here have either closed down or moved to DJs or just don’t book us,” he added. “Meadows is actually maybe one or two local places that we play anymore.”

Macri said music venues that have recently closed include Geraldine’s Lounge and Breakers Bar and Grill in West Springfield.

“We love playing there,” he added. “I’ve played there even years before I joined Aquanett. I’ve been playing there for about 18 years and I’ve had several other bands also that I've started and [Coelho’s] always given me a shot there. He’s always been fair with me and it’s just a great place to play.”

Vicky Bordoni, an East Longmeadow resident, has been hosting the Thursday open mic and jam at Club Meadows for 13 years.

“We have a great solid core of people that are here every week and then sometimes it’s really slow and sometimes it’s so busy I can’t keep track of people,” she added.

Bordoni said the open mic often sees a lot of drummers playing with the house band from week to week, which Bordoni can often be found playing drums in.

“We started calling it an open jam because I thought, ‘Let’s invite people to jam with a house band,’” she explained.

Musicians can play solo sets as well, Bordoni added. The house band usually consists of a bassist, drummer, and guitarist as well as occasionally featuring a keyboard player, saxophonist, or auxiliary percussionist.  The house band usually rotates between a group of local musicians based on the availability of players.

If one house band member isn’t available on any particular Thursday, Bordoni said she usually is able to find a quick replacement.

The open mic has also seen performers sign up and play there sets with instruments not usually seen at open mics such as the French horn and the sitar, Bordoni said. 

“We had this guy and every now and again he comes; he’s got a tuba,” she noted. “When he first walked in I went, ‘What in the world is in that case?’ It was a tuba and he’ll get up there and we’ll play anything from blues to rock to punk, jazz, we do it all.”

"We do have [some younger performers] that come in,” she added. “They’ve written their own songs. They want to do their own thing. I know this one guy Matt [Forbes] and he's a rap artist and so he writes all his own things. We put him up there in the house band we totally change his whole beat into a rock n’ roll song and he'll look at us and he’ll go, Is that me? Is that my song?’ We make him sound so amazing.” 

Jeff King, a West Springfield resident and vocalist, bassist, and songwriter for Americana rock group The Kings, said he has been playing bass in the open mic’s house band for at least four years.

“It’s also accommodating to a new band that just wants to get their feet wet a little bit to test out the audience for their first official gig maybe,” he explained. 

King hosts an open jam at Theodore's Blues, Booze, and BBQ in Springfield every Wednesday night as well.

“That’s another great thing that open jams are good for is for networking and meeting other players,” he added. “I’ve seen a lot of younger players show up and they’re totally green, have never played with any other musicians before.”

King said sometimes he sees younger musicians come to open mics week after week and is astonished by their levels of improvement.

“You can actually just watch them get better,” he added. “Anytime they show up, they know a new song or are better at watching cues from the band and playing better with other players.”

Rick Marshall, a drum and percussion teacher at the Community Music School of Springfield who performed at the open mic night of Dec. 18, said he when he was in the Floyd Patterson Band he used to play at Club Meadows all the time.

“Once a month there I played, like in the early 1990s going into the mid 1990s,” he noted. “It was a good place. We’d play there on like a Wednesday night that and we would usually have a really great audience. It would look like a weekend night when we used to play there.” 

Coelho said that like other drinking establishments Club Meadows hasn’t been immune to the occasional incidents of violence during its quarter of a century existence.

Two incidents took place in January 2013, which involved hearings by the Board of Selectmen.

The first involved a woman who reported to the Springfield Police Department that she had been struck in the forehead by another partygoer in the club’s basement on Jan. 13, 2013.

The second, incident occurred on Jan. 28, 2013 at approximately 3:30 p.m. and involved a familial argument that turned violent when a man sustained a wound to his face by his assailant’s concealed box cutter.

Since then, the club has remained relatively without incidents.

“I’ve dedicated myself to this club all these years,” he added. “I’m here every night to prevent those problems. So very few happen without me paying attention.”

 Coelho said he considers 25 years in business as a milestone. When the club opened there was entertainment on Fridays.

“There’s been live bands at this club for so many years,” he added. “People love to see those bands.”