REPORT: Launch event at Kansas Smitty's Bar

Marcus Bonfanti and Jay Darwish

Kansas Smitty’s in Broadway Market E8 launched their new music programme and cocktail menu on Thursday March 31st. Leah Williams went to it, and sampled the music, the atmosphere - and the cocktails. She writes:

Kansas Smitty’s isn’t the easiest place to find if you’ve never been before. Tucked away in a little room down the back stairs of Broadway Market’s busy ‘Off Broadway’ bar, the speak-easy vibe I imagine they’re going for is almost taken care of by location alone. Arriving only a little after the start time of 7pm, I’m surprised by how many people are already there getting stuck in to the new cocktail list. The music hasn’t even started and there’s already a great atmosphere - the kind you can only generate in these more intimate venues. Kansas Smitty’s is known for its array of julep cocktails and regular favourites, such as the aptly named ‘Smitty’s Julep’ and the fun ‘Allotment Julep’ (which features an interesting range of garden goods such as nettle, carrot and pear), have now been joined by four heavier house cocktails. They’re all enthusiastic concoctions that range from sweet and flirty (the fruit and almond infused ‘First Dance’) to the more serious short (the potent mix of bourbon and walnut liqueur found in ‘Hard Times’).

There are a few tables, seats and bar stools placed around the “stage” area at one end of the room and we nab ourselves a couple of stools to get ready for the music, which is due to start at 8pm. It’s a good job we did, because by the time 8pm comes around there are even more people crammed in to the space and there isn’t even any standing room left - the area around the bar being especially popular…

The new music programme includes a host of varied weekly nights such as ‘Basement Tapes’ on a Wednesday, which will feature musicians from around London matched up with different members of the house band, ‘Vinyl Night’ every Friday, which - you guessed it - will be when vinyl records take centre stage with guests even encouraged to bring their own findings in, and a ‘Poker Night’ every Tuesday. The launch gives us a taster of their new Thursday offering ‘The Shed’, which is described as “a fun and forward-thinking event that challenges and delights listeners with an ever-changing list of performers curated to entertain, enlighten, and take you out of your musical comfort zone.”

Marcus Bonfanti - the frontman for The Ronnie Scott’s Blues Explosion monthly event - was setting the scene tonight, first doing a short solo acoustic set and then joined by some members of the Kansas Smitty’s house band: Jay Darwish on bass, Femi Koleoso on drums and Giacomo Smith on clarinet. Marcus really nails his own particular brand of blues mixed with classic rock that then comes together in an almost surprisingly excellent way when the other elements of a jazz ensemble are added. All four musicians are really tight and their solos were energetic and virtuosic without being too self-indulgent; the drum solos especially were received with rapturous applause every time. Marcus has an immediately distinguishable voice which is reminiscent of old classic rock heroes and an innate sense of timing and rhythm that got everyone tapping and even whooping with pure uninhibited joy at points. All in all, if this is anything to go by, then Kansas Smitty’s evening ‘The Shed’ will certainly be providing an interesting, unique and entertaining programme of events. I'll be back.

Kansas Smitty's 63-65 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH, corner of Dericote Street

LINKS: The programme of forthcoming events is on Kansas Smitty’s website.
Marcus Bonfanti

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