I’ve never hung out in Carbondale. That’s right, a Northeastern Pa. native, and I have never had the pleasure of hanging with the local Carbondale folk. I got to do that last Friday night with local hard rock band Destination West. And I’ve never been around a nicer bar crowd in my entire life.
Let’s start by explaining just how the night started. In attempt to get to Bar 44, an establishment I’ve never been to, I got ridiculously lost. With a detour on an unfamiliar road, my only pleasure came in knowing that there were no witnesses to my total temper tantrum while driving on dark streets. I was in and out of cell phone reception and grumbling an occasional profanity when Destination West frontman Mike Baresse and I finally managed to speak on the phone. Frustrated after experiencing the same detour an hour earlier, Mike tossed the phone to Bar 44’s owner John Fofi, and John told me to pull over, sit tight and he would come and get me. I was very surprised by such a nice gesture, and I knew instantly that my night was just about to turn around. The owner of the bar leaving his establishment just to help me find the place? Not a lot of owners would do that. And I was extremely grateful for such hospitality. Nice gesture number one.
I arrived at the bar and of course got digs from Destination West about finally showing up. Bass player Rick Roman told me he was pleased that I could finally make it, and I laughed along with him, ready to dive into my notetaking and fully prepared to catch the vibe of this unfamiliar bar. Minutes after I arrived, I was engaged in conversation with two local Carbondale men. They were very friendly, funny and we talked in great length about the bar, Carbondale, the paper, Destination West, etc. Nice gesture number two.
Minutes later I met John Clifford, Destination West’s sound guy. I was curious to see how he got into running sound, and we chatted about his long 21-year run with the profession and how he developed from knowing nothing to learning the entire process. It was an interesting conversation. Nice gesture number three.
Throughout the night, a circle of friends were running around taking photos. They requested several times for me to jump in the photos with them. They helped me gather people so I could take pictures for the Weekender, and one of the girls offered me a drink several times. Due to the distance I had to drive, I politely declined, but once again, the entire experience was beyond friendly, and I was instantly having a good time. I even got invited to the bar’s Halloween party. All of it — nice gesture number four.
As I examined the bar and saw everyone having a good time, I was wondering what was so different between this bar and some other corner bars I’ve been to. Sure, drinks were flowing, but beyond that, everyone knew each other. You may think that this is common for a lot of corner bars in NEPA. This is true. But everyone also LIKED everyone else in this bar. But that was just part of it.
I watched how Destination West interacted with the crowd. Did you get that last part? They INTERACTED with the crowd. I found that an extremely smart move. What better way to gain fans in a small local hotspot than to really get to know the people? They could have just showed up, played their set list and called it a night, putting on a good show. But they didn’t do that. It was obvious this bar was a tight-knit group, so Destination West took advantage of that. They allowed the guy singing along in the front to sing with them on mic. They allowed the group of girls who were running around and snapping pictures of everyone to jump on stage with them. They even allowed the girls to pose with them while they were performing in order for the girls to get their photo op. I honestly thought Mick was going to have a drum damaged in the process or Rick get trampled. I found that Destination West understood this crowd. And the crowd appreciated that. It was obvious when the crowd in turn interacted with the band.
I’ve never gone from such a frustrated state (due to my getting lost episode) to such a heightened positive mood so quickly, especially without engaging in the drinking. I walked into a bar by myself not knowing anyone besides Destination West and left feeling like I just made a lot more acquaintances. I walked into a bar knowing that Destination West were a fun band to watch, and I had an appreciation of their music and left feeling that they weren’t only fun to watch but also fun to be around. The crowd was obviously in agreement. I also had a deeper appreciation for their music once I saw that they really shared it with the bar’s patrons.
Simply put, everyone came out for a good time. They got that. And I got that too, even after multiple temper tantrums.
I guess you can say it was worth getting lost for 45 minutes. The overall camaraderie between Bar 44 and Destination West was definitely worth the trip. And I’d do it again any day — with a navigational system.
For more photos, go to