It is Friday night, and the regulars are starting to arrive at Steve and Linda Migliore's house in Abingdon.
Paul Abbott, the bass player, brings a bottle of pickle-flavored vodka. It is dreadful stuff, but there isn't another bottle like it in the Migliores' well-stocked — and exotic — bar, and that's the point. There is a friendly competition to see who can contribute the strangest booze.
"I saw it on the shelf, and I knew that had to be the one," said his wife, Jennifer Abbott, who will take the microphone and sing vocals soon.
Linda Migliore, on keyboard and vocals, fills the margarita maker with frozen fruit and flavored vodka and, after a noisy round of blending, offers everyone a glass. "Take your antioxidants," she says.
Steve Migliore, lead guitar and songwriter, offers everybody a shot to get the evening going, but his friend Pat Fasano, whom he and Linda have known since the sixth grade, is already plugging his electric guitar into the amp, and Bel Air postmaster Danny Wenski has taken his seat behind the drums.
Everybody puts down the drinks, picks up the instruments and pulls the microphones close. Suddenly it's the Beatles and the Doors, and it is 40 years ago at a high school in New Brunswick, N.J.
"You don't have to play an instrument, but it helps if you drink," says Steve, as the tricked-out basement fills with friends. "Although everybody becomes a singer at some point."
It's funny, because nobody is actually pounding them down. People are barely talking. Everybody is just watching the band. Gently bouncing to the familiar classic-rock songs, kind of dreamy.
"People of all walks of life can come," says Steve, as the local funeral home owner arrives. "If they are fun, they can stay."
Steve and Linda were divorced with kids when they met again at New Brunswick High's 30-year reunion more than a decade ago. They've been together ever since, married in Jamaica in 2008. Together, they worked to re-create that island feeling at home.
The place is very Margaritaville. There is an outdoor bar, a hot tub, a gazebo, a fire pit, a man-made stream that gurgles into a small pond. He does the hardscape; she does the plants. Many of them are tropicals, though Linda knows she is pushing her luck in this temperature zone.
There are 450 hostas edging the yard and gardens. Steve knows because he sprays them every week to keep the deer away.
"We loved the way it felt in Jamaica," says Linda, who works as a nurse by day. "But now we like it better here than at the resorts."
The house is small and just one story, but Linda keeps adding "rooms" outdoors. Charming spots in her yard that are secluded by small trees and gardens. One for reading, one for watching the stars. One that will soon be for yoga.
Steve works in home construction, and it was he who created the ultimate playroom for grown-ups in the basement. One closet became a small wine cellar; another became his bar. There is theater seating for the big-screen TV and a refrigerator in the laundry room dedicated to beer.
And there are instruments everywhere. And not just the ones the friends pick up on Friday nights. Linda Migliore was a champion bagpiper, and one of them decorates a wall. So do the violins her children played, in graduating sizes. And the accordion, of course. She plays, and her daughter will soon learn.
On the walls are the covers of old Rolling Stone magazines — Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. Concert posters and portraits of John Lennon and Jim Morrison. There are neon beer signs, and a photo of Steve and Fasano playing guitar together at 19.
And every Friday night it comes together in this cubbyhole of a club.
"It used to be that I played drums maybe four times a year. Now I play four times a week," says Wenski, who had a band decades ago "I've played for 30 years, more or less. But I had kids and then …
"This has changed my life."
Fasano works as a forester in Pennsylvania but drives here every Friday to play. In the band, that is. He is pretty serious.
John Serrano is an engineer, and he repairs and maintains Lasik machines. He works with Keith Gibbons (keyboards), whose wife works with Linda. People arrive and they stay.
Serrano had a guitar custom-made after he joined the Friday night crowd and began playing again after decades. "There is life after work," he says.
Abbott, also an engineer, was coming on Friday nights for six years while his wife sang; no one knew he played bass guitar. Typical bass player, quiet and private. Then he mentioned that he'd played a bit as a kid. "He's excellent," says Steve.
Linda works both sides of this room, serving drinks, putting out food and occasionally dropping in on the microphone to sing backup. "I want to be a bartender when I grow up," she says, laughing. She loves her husband's compositions, loves that the guys come by during the week to work on them. She loves her Friday nights.
"What's not to like?" asks Charlie Braido, who has known Linda and Steve since high school. He drives a couple of hours from New Jersey to get here. "You come down here and you forget everything else."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun