Hunter Hayes, a blues-y, Frank-y, East and West Coast Swing style singer is our newest favorite artist to follow around. We heard him at Attilio’s Tavern in Dover, NJ, a restaurant we frequent for dining and dancing and his was the best group we’ve seen there. Attilio’s is not a dive-bar, bar-food type “tavern” but a red-checkered tablecloth-type, full traditional Italian-menu restaurant with an actual dance floor between the tables and the tiny stage. Whether they actually have red checkered tablecloths or not I really can’t recall but they do have the chicken parmigiana and chicken scapriello that we always order when we find ourselves at one of those classic family Italian restaurants of Billy Joel fame.
Hunter Hayes was the featured entertainer on the night we had already decided to go, and a pre-glance at his information online let me know in advance we were in for something special. As we were finishing our cappuccino he arrived to set up for his 9 pm first set, with his “crew” of two (who he later introduced as his son and nephew) and his hip-hop-y jacket and baseball cap were exchanged for a fedora, shades, jacket and tie. Recorded music gave way to a few opening songs before he even spoke a word but by then John and I were, once again, the first ones on the dance floor so as not to waste a note of music. There was a west-coast swing to “Killer Joe,” foxtrot and swing to “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Summer Wind” and “It’s a Wonderful World,” and by the slow dance “Georgia on My Mind” the dance floor was filling up. Then the so-called “crowd pleaser” numbers started (as John calls them with derision), such as “Sweet Caroline” and ”Twist the Night Away” so we sat down to take a break. Will we back on the dance floor soon? Yes, by then Hunter was chatting and we also learned he was from Montclair, his wife who had nursed him back to health following a hospital stay was in the audience, and that he was switching to slow dance numbers very soon. I sipped on my Bellini-tini and soon we were back up, getting in a cha cha and rumba to Frankie Valli and Little Anthony before it was the end of the first set. That’s the time the owner of Attilio’s brings the flag out, the diners rise and the evening’s entertainer sings “God Bless America” (or Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” as did the Infernos).
Now comes the go/no-go moment. Would we be staying for the second yet? I always want to but it is never up to me. Friday night outs are hard but John was very happy with the music so we stayed. We went up to the side of the stage where he directed me to pick up Hunter’s business card while he put ten dollars in the basket for a CD, “it’s a wonderful life.” A plan to download it the next day to the iphone was discussed.
Hunter had promised his break would be short and indeed, in not much more than 15 minutes, he had finished his pasta with his family and was back on the stage. There was Wilson Picket, Motown, “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe,” and soon the hard-stop hour of midnight was upon us and it was time to call it a night. Hunter had come over to our table as he had made the rounds meeting the audience and we told him he’d be seeing us again.
Visit his website at http://hunterhayesnewjersey.com/future-events/ for Hunter Hayes regular monthly and special engagements. His next date at Attilio’s Tavern is Dec 2, 2011.
by Lisa Skriloff, editor, Dance Travel News dancetravelnews.com