At the end of the Funk-Shins’ two-set performance, bassist/musical mastermind Scott Petito said to the remaining crowd, “Thanks for coming!”
A woman in the audience, obviously a local, replied, “Thanks for coming. Greenville!”
Mind you, Petito lives in Catskill, so getting to Greenville isn’t a big deal for him. However, for those of us who live north of Nipper’s statue, it’s a bit more of a schlep. Bottom line, you really need a raison to get to Greenville, and I now have two: First, there’s The Tasting Lab, an extremely cozy bar in what looks like an old general store; second, there’s the weekly concert series that the Lab presents on its spacious split-level terrace at the back of the pub.
Local drummer Brad Monkell (who’s been gigging in Greenville himself for a few years now) recruited Petito to open the show, and he brought along a few friends to do the job. One of them was going to be keyboardist Rachel Z, but COVID ruined all of her weekend plans, so Petito called Pete Levin, who I’ll go see anytime. Viola player Eric Person – who is having a VERY good year thanks to the success of his release blue vision – took center stage, while drummer Jeff Lipstein laid the groundwork. Then there was the surprise guest: Mino Cinelu, one of the world’s greatest percussionists, who apparently showed up and said, “Can I sit down?”
The group gathered as I sat down at my table on deck, ordered a Juice Bomb and grabbed the two-part menu. At the Tasting Lab, it’s definitely “choose your own adventure” when it comes to what Guy Fieri calls “elevated pub food.” A sandwich can be anything from chicken and veggie burgers to elk and venison, with a wagyu burger thrown in for good measure (Take THAT, Arby’s!) and something called “Mutt Burger.” (I didn’t ask!) There’s a separate page just for ordering a quesadilla, with a list of proteins and toppings that would make most Mexican restaurants run and hide, and the wings come with a choice of nine sauces.
The just-spicy-enough Thai chili sauce sticks perfectly, both to the wings and to my face. Several towels are needed, although licking your fingers is an added bonus. I’ve become an expert on veggie burgers since my cholesterol decided to start slapping me, and the Lab serves the best I’ve ever had, with my choice of toppings. (Tomato, onion, pickles, mustard: I’m a simple man with simple needs.) I looked longingly at the Poutine Fries in the Appetizers section, but decided to exercise restraint by relaxing and watching some of the best players in the region. do their thing.
Basically, it was a night of standards, but comparing the Funk-Shins’ “standards” to what normally goes with the label is like saying the Lab’s burgers are “exactly the same” as Wendy’s. serves. Petito called Herbie Hancock’s “Canteloupe Island” to start, and that tune was perfect for the chilly June evening, especially with Person exploding on the melody and Levin composing on the piano. The band was set up on the raised part of the deck, and it was a perfect stage for Petito and his buddies.
Nobody moved to flute for Chick Corea’s “Windows,” and Cinelu joined the triangle. It might sound like Mino brought a miscellaneous percussion instrument to a shootout, but Cinelu does more with a triangle than most people do with entire kits. He composed bongos to Bobbi Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe” until Person gathered the windblown lead sheets; Fortunately, someone in the crowd had a box of binder clips in their car, and Person made good use of them for the rest of the night.
Levin switched to the classic Fender Rhodes sound for “Billy Joe” and stuck with it for a funky early version of “Footprints” that was more Terence Blanchard than Wayne Shorter. From there, the quintet took Horace Silver’s “Senor Blues” to 21st century, then did Levin’s own funky composition “Gimme Some Scratch”. No one had been masterful throughout the show, but he positively soared on Eddie Harris’ “Cold Duck Time.” These are musicians who can name their prizes at festivals around the world, and they were cooking on gas in the middle of Greene County.
Ultimately, The Tasting Lab has the potential to be County Greene’s version of Galway’s The Cock ‘n Bull, which is also WAY off the beaten path, but draws people in every night with its hit menu. fist and his exceptional music. . And while the Funk-Shins are definitely the best band on the Lab’s current schedule, news travels fast, and it would be beneficial to keep this place on your radar – at the very least, because Poutine Fries is the gift of the Canada to the world, and because (as Petito continues to demonstrate) “local musicians” means something completely different – and better – in the Hudson Valley.