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Hotspot: The Cantab Lounge

By Michael A. Mohammed, Crimson Staff Writer

You need more dive in your life, and the remarkably dive-tastic Cantab is the place to get it. The Central Square fixture’s exposed pipes, fluorescent lighting and “Hot Nuts” dispenser will help cure you of Daedelus-itis.

But the delicious gloom is a mere side benefit to the devoted crowd. The main draw is the blues-tinged music on the club’s tiny stage, every night of the week.

Octogenarian Little Joe Cook is a national blues legend, and has been playing at the Cantab with backing band the Thrillers every weekend for 25 of his 83 years. Tuesday night showcases blistering bluegrass, and Wednesday and Sunday are open-mic blues jam nights.

The Hotspot hit the club this past Sunday around 11, where, shockingly, the place was packed. Honestly, The Hotspot didn’t even know it was legal to have fun on a Sunday night in Cambridge.

No one told the crowd, though, because they were as into the music as the people on stage. Of course, judging by the instrument cases propped against every vertical surface, most of them were there to perform.

It may have been an open-mic night, but there was nothing amateurish about it—these people knew what they were doing. The open-mics have no cover—if you’re broke and want to see some talented part-timers you should check it out.

Masaki Minami, a 25-year-old Berklee student, was onstage when The Hotspot walked in. When he really got tearing on his guitar, his face took on a maniacal expression he’d shoot at his bandmates. Offstage, however, he transformed from a funky blues player back to a reserved, quiet fellow. It was easy to see what he liked about the Wednesday and Sunday night jams.

“The people are friendly, and it’s a good place to get gigs,” Minami said. “I’m doing what I want to here, unlike at school.”

It’s definitely a welcoming place, and the diverse crowd shows loud and frequent appreciation for the music. As far as places to get sloshed go, it’s a hell of a lot better than the smarmy B-schoolers at Grafton Street—and it’s a lot cheaper, too.

The Hotspot had its sad introduction to the Cantab freshman year, when its hot proctor’s boyfriend talked about the incredible time he has every time he goes to see Little Joe play.

Then he asked if the Hotspot was 21 and seemed surprised to hear that it wasn’t. Hell, as a literary entity, The Hotspot wasn’t even born yet. In what could be listed in the O.E.D.’s sixth or seventh definition of “damn shame,” the Cantab is strictly 21-plus, although it’s been rumored that you can get in if your daddy or mommy take you along.

—Staff writer Michael A. Mohammed can be reached at mohammed@fas.harvard.edu.

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