Venue Highlight: Lizard Lounge (Cambridge, MA)

Molly Pinto Madigan Lizard Lounge

There is something almost timeless about Cambridge’s best bar in a basement music venue. I mean, there is a reason we hosted the first 2 RLR anniversary shows there. You may almost miss the entrance of the Lizard Lounge if you didn’t know it was there (not that this would be a complete loss thing, because that means you would stumble INTO Cambridge Common and the food/beer is awesome there). A sharp left through a door and a descent down into a crimson hue blanketed room sets the stage for some of the best shows I have seen in living here in town for the past decade. There is almost a speakeasy vibe to the place, like you aren’t supposed to be there. Sexy in a way I guess…but still with all the charm of your favorite beer soaked dive, but a bit more upscale.

Vibe. What to expect? In a way, the intro serves the purpose of what to expect in a vibe. There is this smooth line that Lizard is able to walk between traditional bar venue and listening room. The way that you are on top of the performers, surrounding them, and at the same level as them gives it a “show in your living room” kind of a feel. Its comfy, it’s cozy, but it’s still a bar and you feel like you are having a night out when you attend a show there. It’s about as perfect a balance as you can get in terms of a venue that serves both the audience and the performers. Oriental rugs line the area that is the stage and performers intermingle with the audience between sets, as they have to walk between you to get there. There is an intimacy here that no other venue I have seen (aside from maybe a house show) is able to achieve.

Artists. Who plays at Lizard Lounge? Lizard’s cast of musicians is an open book really. You can see up and comers to well established writers at the LLOMC on Mondays (last time I played Ryan Montbleau swung by to play a couple and you will always run into a friend or familiar face on Monday nights at the Challenge). Session Americana is a staple for residencies a couple times a year and one of the best music acts to see live…period. A few months back Texas songwriter Hayes Carll was down in the Lounge with Rhodey favorite Joe Fletcher. Soul rockers Old Jack currently has a year long last Saturday residency ongoing, and the Lizard and it’s sibling down the road are notorious for hosting some of the best residencies month over month all year long. So, short answer: pretty much everyone making great music, big or small, near or far.

Grub. What can I eat? As I said before, Cambridge Common is some good eatin’. As a vegetarian I am hot on the buffalo tofu I have had in the past and not one, but TWO veggie burger options (always the curly fries or tots…yup, tater tots). CC is my savior when it comes to eating out in Cambridge. You won’t spend an arm and a leg eating there and the rest of the menu is pretty extensive in “nicer” pub fare from burgers to mac and cheese to salads to salmon. Its comfort food, delicious and warming in the belly that will fill you up nice…plus you can order it from downstairs at Lizard Lounge too! To say the beer list is extensive is an understatement. They have a ton of great rotating taps and always a good selection in the menu. Just beware, those 9 and 10% -ers will catch up with you quick!

Booking. How do I play the Lizard Lounge? A question I have been asked personally far too many times to account for. For a man who likely gets about 2,000 emails a day, Billy Beard, is about as responsive as one could hope for, but don’t expect an answer to a generic ‘book me, I’m great’ e-mail minutes after sending it. Be specific, give him an idea of why this show will be special, what you plan on doing to promote it, why will this show stand out on a calendar of 18 other shows just like it that night. Catch his eye and if you don’t hear back in 2 weeks or so send a gentle reminder.

If that doesn’t work, the Lizard Lounge Open Mic Challenge on Monday nights hosted by Tom Bianchi is just about the best show you can catch any night of the week in town, plays hosts to 20-25 talented acts a night, and gives you a chance to feel out the stage and get your name out to both Mr. Bianchi and Billy as someone supporting the venue and talented enough to pull a headlining show. A room that is as cool and great as Lizard shouldn’t be a cakewalk to get booked, plain and simple.

Check out the schedule over on the website and get down to the Lizard soon!

(photo by Kelly Burgess)