If you’re up for eating great food, listening to great music, having a great time and doing some good while you’re at it, here’s a great idea: drop by the Dirty Drummer on 44th Street near Oak on Saturday, February 26 for a fundraiser benefiting The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation in Boston.
“Huh?” you may be asking right about now. Hang on and I’ll give you the backstory in a minute, but first, here are the details you need to know to get you up to speed about this laidback, backyard BBQ kind of night. Food will be provided by chef Cassie Shortino of Shorty’s Charpit, who will be making her usual smoked, chicken, beef on weck and macaroni salad. Prices will fall in a $12-$16 range, and she’ll be firing up her smoker/grill in the parking lot around 4 p.m. After covering food costs, she’s donating the rest of the money to Stepping Strong.
Meanwhile, according to Dirty Drummer co-owner Dana Armstrong, the bands will likely get started onstage and inside somewhere around 5-6 p.m. You’re encouraged to make a donation to see the show. Now, here’s the lineup: the August Manley Band (classic country and outlaw country à la Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard); the Taylor Glasheen Band (Armstrong describes Glasheen as an interesting songwriter doing modern country-rock) and finally, Chester Charles Carmer (whom Armstrong describes as old-time country and bluegrass).
Armstrong also tells me that this location is the only original Dirty Drummer left, the fifth to open (1980) in what was once a local chain of 14 locations around the Valley. Since her dad, Frank Armstrong (nicknamed “Drummer”), co-owned the place with Dave Werner (nicknamed “Dirty Dave”), they hit on Dirty Drummer as the name. Armstrong and her partners Tom Bernard and Andrew Smith have restored it to its former glory, which Armstrong remembers from hanging out there as a kid. She says it was full of positive energy and fun people, many of whom were certifiably athletic, not couch potatoes who merely watched sports on TV. Her parents, she says, were runners.
It all kind of fits then — especially since Dana is best friends with Bevin McNamara, sister to Michael McNamara, the local-boy-makes-good who concocted this whole do-gooder plan in the first place. You see, Michael is graduating medical school in Wisconsin and getting ready for his residency in orthopedic surgery. He and a friend, who is graduating med school with him, decided it would be cool (and vaguely symbolic) to run in the Boston Marathon as a competitive climax to their intensely competitive years in med school. To run in the Boston Marathon, you must either be a fantastic athlete (McNamara claims he is not) or find a way to scare up a bunch of money to donate to a good cause. He chose Stepping Strong, whose physician-scientists collaborate with Harvard Medical School, MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham Health, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital.
And just to get that whole full circle thing — Shortino and McNamara went to high school together, even dated for a while back in the day. It’s a feel-good story about people coming together for a good cause.