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Published: 2002/06/26
by Margot Main

Will Bernard and Motherbug, Bruno’s, San Francisco- 6/15

San Francisco, June 15th: An unusually mild night, the fog was barely
noticeable as a day full of sunshine was rewarded with a night full of good
tunes. Music was everywhere; from Market Street to the ocean. However, a
very special musical nugget, Will Bernard and Motherbug, glowed with mellow
seduction at Bruno's on Mission St.

The restaurant is reminiscent of bygone Rat Pack days. Deep red leather
circular couches curve around spacious tables. Moderately priced entrees
such as chicken cacciatore, salmon, lasagna and share-stylin pizza are
equally well prepared. Joined with a matching foyer, the bar/lounge area is
steps from dinner (which also includes the cover charge). In the same
decor, the bar area encourages casual conversation with a slight flair of
subtle sophistication. Once the screen discreetly guarding the entrance to
the lounge area was removed; people glided in to claim their spots.

The music lounge is rather small. The bar for this area takes up about half
the floor space and, at times, became difficult to see Will Bernard and
Motherbug. There is no stage, only designated space for the band to play in
(at the opposite end of the room). With Will Bernard on guitar, Kevin
McArthur on bass, Jan Jackson on drums and Michael Bernstein on keys; the
playing area was was squeezed. By the time everyone filtered in, every low
stool and table were taken, even the ones which only allowed for a backside
view of the players. It was standing room only; which isn't a bad thing for
this band.

Playing to the venue, the band worked hard not to pump it up; but, not to
pump it to much. Instead, they demonstrated their ability to keep heads
bopping and feet tapping with a steady flow of San Francisco style jazz (fog
laced instead of smoke infused). This itself is a talent; encouraging
people to stand up and move some body part in an area that's to tight and
cramped to dance.

The sweet smooth sounds of "Sultan" did just that. Just letting the notes
flow and absorbing the intricate groove of Will Bernard's guitar work was
better than tiramisu for dessert. Jan Jackson played with similar
sophisticated eloquence as living legend jazz drummer Roy Haynes. "Elvis in
Style" was one of many songs which highlighted Michael Bernstein's keyboard
work. Kevin McArthur effortlessly kept the funk moving forward at a clip to
match the cars outside on the strip. "Motherbug Theme" was played with
contained happiness; it was obvious the band wanted to kick in and play
hard. But, the leather wallpaper and thick carpet subtlety enforced the
venue as an "upscale" establishment. However, designer blond and silk
halter tops aside, closing with "3 Toad Sloth", bright smiles and tight
grooves grew wide.

Overall Bruno's night of mellow seduction worked. Decent music in a decent
date place (with great service) that's nice and casually impressive. Will
Bernard and Motherbug certainly proved to be able to play their groove to an
appreciative crowd and seemingly cautious venue. Hopefully, next time
they'll be playing at a venue where they and the crowd can really turn the
funk up and jazz it out.

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