It was a freezing cold Saturday night.  As we walked down 2nd south to the Red Door my step-brother and I discussed our lovable local government.  I’m halfway through the phrase “Glenn Beck-loving sons of…” when our conversation is abruptly halted.  There’s a wait to get inside. A line at a local CD release show?  Unheard of!  I double-check my notes to make sure we were at the right place, and sure enough it’s the Red Door.  Once we got inside, the guy at the door said “find a spot, wherever you can.”

He wasn’t exaggerating.  As Daniel Day, Jeff Miller and Dave Bowen serenaded the crowd with their de-grunged version of Pearl Jam’s “Alive,” I made my way to the only empty spot I saw, along the back wall.  The place was packed.  One corner was loaded with people lounging on couches, the other side was crammed with too many people sitting at too few tables.  The bar was layered three deep with people waiting to get drinks, and at the foot of the stage people were dancing.

I’m not talking about swaying side-to-side while barely moving-type dancing, mind you.  I’m talking about a 50 year-old guy, wearing a shirt and bolero pants that light up, jumping, grooving and dry-humping all over the place –– and he wasn’t alone.  Truly a sight to behold.

I don’t attend non-metal shows very often, and I’ve never played Name That Tune, but as it turns out I should do both more often.  Leaning against a 12-foot painting of Che Guevara’s face, I found myself turning to my step-brother regularly with a “what is this song?” look on my face.

Then, it  would come to me.  ‘They’re playing Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” and they don’t look or sound ridiculous!  The jazzy, rhythmic bass line under “laid back…” sounds as good as the original, if not better.’  These guys rarely stopped for applause, instead they bridged into my favorite Depeche Mode song, “Enjoy the Silence.”

Bowen began playing his cumbersome upright bass like it’s a five-pound electric guitar.  He held  his bass horizontally,  jumped off the stage and jammed on the dance floor among the dancers.  Everyone applauded his agility as he danced with his instrument.  Then, at just the right moment, he hopped back on stage, spun his bass, and caught it right on the downbeat of the final chorus.  It’s obvious that the Trio is having the time of their lives.

As the night progressed, Mr. light-up bolero pants came back with a fresh shirt (I guess he knew he’d be sweating like a bastard), more and more people kept cramming inside, and the band burned through their random cross-section of mostly 90s hits.  The windows were all fogged up from  body heat, and after a groovy lounge version of NIN “Closer” that had the whole room bobbing their heads and raising their eyebrows, the band took an intermission. Day took the microphone to shamelessly plug the trio’s new CD, and points to the beautiful blonde girl selling their CD for “just $15.”

Having been to many CD release shows, and plenty of local shows, $15 caught me off guard as being pretty steep.  But, judging by the atmosphere of admiration in the room, it proves to be a wise decision as more and more people are seen holding their new purchases.  The Daniel Day Trio doesn’t waste their intermission getting a drink and cooling off outside, these guys are working the room.  They can’t know everyone in the audience, but they certainly act like they do.  I even saw them autographing a few CDs.

“Lithium” by Nirvana gets the momentum going again.  I liked that they were playing batches of songs, bridged together, never playing a song start to finish.  They play each song long enough to be recognized and enjoyed, then move on to another one.  Half the fun of the night was trying to figure out the name of each new song.  The crowd was singing along to “Wonderwall” by Oasis, then the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind” and Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So.”

One crowd-member  sang louder than others, taking advantage of these karaoke moments with a furrowed brow that would make Clay Aiken look normal. But the biggest group sing-a-long came unexpectedly during a rendition of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Going On.”  The room literally erupted in vocal unity during the chorus, then casually returned to conversational chatter, only to flare up again during the second chorus.

This is a great thing about the Daniel Day Trio– they are interesting enough to fuel conversations, but not intrusive enough to interrupt them.  The bass, guitar and drum levels were perfect.  Every song set is a foot-tapping groove, but the trio never sounds repetitive or monotonous.

Watching Day, I realize that I haven’t seen someone utilize such a simple drum kit so well since Questlove.  All he has is a kick, snare, two cymbals and a high-hat, yet he’s continually interesting and ingenuitive with his rhythm and his soloing.  Toward the end of the night, during a low-key version of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”, it occurred to me that the Daniel Day Trio could easily cross a line and become a parody/comedy group like that Richard Cheese guy.  But, even their pop covers sound fresh and original enough to avoid that mistake.  Next they play Madonna’s “Vogue” and despite Miller’s hokey facial expressions while he plays guitar, his additions to the melody are quirky and fun, without trying to showboat.  He’s definitely a great guitarist.

The Daniel Day Trio have been playing shows at the Red Door since 2003, and it’s clear that they’ve earned some loyalty over these seven years.  At 12:56, as a final endorsement, the owner of the Red Door took the mic and announced that “if you buy a CD in the next 4 minutes, your last drink of the night will be $5 off.”  While the last CDs and drinks of the night are purchased, the trio launched into one final medley of songs, including a welcome reprise of “What’s Going On” that sends the everyone into another melodic fit.

The Daniel Day Trio knows what the crowd wants, and they’re happy to oblige.  On my way out I stopped and shook the trio’s hands to thank them for the entertainment and found that they are genuinely nice guys to boot.  I know I’ve just been to a good show when I listen to the band’s CD in my car on the way home.  On Saturday night, I jammed Champions, the Daniel Day Trio’s newest all the way home.