Catching tunes at Kings

Kingfield residents may be familiar with King’s Wine Bar. An unassuming little restaurant at the corner of 46th & Grand, King’s offers an excellent selection of wine and craft beer — as well as Hamm’s, if you want to mix it up — innovative yet unpretentious cuisine and a casual, comfortable atmosphere. 

If you’ve stumbled in on the first Tuesday night of the month, you may find yourself wondering, who’s the guy behind the bar with the laptop and the microphone, and what’s he doing there? That guy is DJ Jake Rudh, of Transmission and The Current fame, and he’s spinning three hours of music on the night’s particular theme. You’ve just discovered MUSIC at King’s, and you’re in for a treat.

MUSIC has been going on since 2010, when Rudh and his fellow Current DJ Steve Seel hosted a tribute to Brian Eno. It soon became a monthly event with a different theme each month. From Yacht Rock, the smooth sounds of guilty-pleasure soft rock hits from the 70s and 80s, and one of Rudh’s personal favorite themes, to October’s annual Goth Night, celebrating the creepy and macabre in time for Halloween, you can count on a mix of the chosen genre’s biggest hits and extremely obscure B-sides that you were certain nobody but you remembered. Unless it’s a time-specific theme, such as Mods Versus Rockers, you’ll hear songs from all over rock’s history. This is a music junkie’s paradise.

The vibe at MUSIC is similar to that of Transmission, Rudh’s weekly dance night at Clubhouse Jager; many of MUSIC’s regulars are the serious music geeks who frequent Transmission. There’s a shared sense of delight at a much-loved and too long unheard song. But unlike Clubhouse Jager, King’s doesn’t have space for a dance floor, freeing Rudh to explore the mellower side of his collection. Rather than the dance party atmosphere at Transmission, MUSIC is more like a cocktail party. If you’re new in town, or just like to meet new people, sit at the bar; the regulars frequently embrace people from the neighborhood who wandered in for a glass of wine and ended up sharing stories of how they used to make out to this song, or that they once met the drummer in this band at a 7-Eleven. MUSIC proves that the myth of Twin Citians being nice but distant and difficult to get to know is not necessarily true.

The crowd is eclectic; there’s an array of ages from people who can’t remember what life was like before music was available online to those who might have gone to Woodstock, although it does skew Gen X. You’ll see a group of Kingfielders having a late dinner after their kids’ band recital at a table next to some Transmission regulars dressed up in their interpretation of the night’s theme, while a couple enjoying King’s Tuesday night Date Night special (3 courses, dessert and a wine flight for two at $45) sits at one of the small tables by the window. Everyone nods their heads to the beat, and broad smiles break out at the start of a favorite song.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what ties the songs together, but there are some similarities throughout the music that gives each set a cohesive feel. Songs tend to be oriented around the vocals, and lyrics are important; there’s often a cleverness, heavy on wordplay and literary allusions. The guitars are intricate rather than chugging, creating layers of color and texture around the vocal melodies. The one major exception is the Camaro Rock set, which is definitely more shop class than honors English. 

For the most recent theme, Synth Pop, Rudh played a diverse mix: electronic classics Joe Jackson and the Pet Shop Boys; local band Astronaut Wife; contemporary artists The Bird and the Bee; and music from A Clockwork Orange were all featured. He closed out the set with the theme to 80s sitcom Alf, which, while seemingly incongruous, was somehow the perfect choice. Themes are often picked to coincide with artists who will be playing in town that month; synth pop was inspired by the upcoming Howard Jones show at the Varsity, and midway through the set there was a drawing for a pair of tickets to the show. Somewhat disappointingly, this writer did not win them, but since ticket giveaways are common at MUSIC, I’m optimistic about my future chances.

You can get a pretty good idea of what a typical MUSIC set sounds like on Rudh’s radio program, Thursdays from 10–11 p.m. on The Current. If you like what you hear, do yourself a favor and head to King’s on the first Tuesday of next month. The theme could be anything from Sci-Fi Classics to 90s MTV, but whatever it is, you’ll find me sitting at the bar with the rest of the musicheads. Stop by and say hello.