Tonight I had the great fortune to witness an event that happens only once in a band’s career – the ”first gig.” Three young ladies, all still in high school, had the opportunity to play an acoustic set at the Oasis Café and Bar, located in a shopping center on North Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach. All three sang solo and in combination of duet and often as a trio. Two named Hannah and one named Charity, they perform as the group, Bananas for Charity.
While not quite ready for the proverbial record contract (yet) it is obvious that they take their music seriously and, more importantly, have the music in their hearts. Bananas for Charity gave the crowd a variety of well sung tunes, ranging from Simon & Garfunkel, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, and Kansas to Norah Jones, Kings of Leon, Coldplay, Train, and Antsy Pants. A crowd favorite was John Denver’s Country Roads, which had plenty of audience participation. I could go on about the sheer number of different artists covered, but many over the age of 30 may not know The Postal Service, Oasis or Snow Patrol. I did recognize one tune from the movie, Napoleon Dynamite, too.
The girls had excellent stage presence, interacted well with the crowd, and didn’t let the occasional flub dampen their spirits. Bananas for Charity had fun on stage and the audience connected with them. No easy feat for established bands, let alone first timers who are not yet old enough to have a pint at the pub they are performing in.
The café’s owner, who I did not get a chance to speak with so I haven’t his name yet, is to be commended for seeking out local talent and providing such a welcoming place to play. The Oasis Café and Bar is set as a pub, which makes sense since the owner is an actual Brit, not a faceless corporation with a marketing department trying to create what “they” think “we” think a pub should be like. The food was excellent, as was the service. Considering there was just one server, plus a bartender/owner/dishwasher, and presumably a cook somewhere, the packed house looked to be very satisfied with the service and food offered.
Our party of six had a mix of entrees. The presentations, simple yet thoughtfully executed, were met with looks of approval and anticipation. The hamburger and cheeseburger platters looked home-cooked, not prepackaged. The salads, one Caesar with grilled chicken and one house salad, were full of fresh ingredients and looked fabulous. Unlike salads offered at higher-priced restaurant chains, these salads were large, yet not overwhelming. One of us had the grilled salmon bites, slathered with a garlic butter sauce. The one-word comment I kept hearing was “Awesome.”
Since we were at a “British pub,” I just had to try the fish & chips. Judging by the dozen or so platters I saw leaving the kitchen, many others ordered this, too. After a bite or two, I could see why. Two large pieces of breaded and deep fried cod, served with steak fries, young peas and two slices of bread made for a filling dinner. But wait, there’s more! I opted for an additional side dish, labeled on the menu as something for “True Brits.” Spam Fritters. Yes, you have read correctly. A half inch slab of Spam, breaded and deep fried like the cod. I actually liked this better than the fish! What memories that little side dish brought back from my youthful days in Scouting, where fried Spam was a veritable staple for survival. Good for your arteries? Probably not. Tasty and worth getting again? Most definitely!
I will keep my ears open as to when Bananas for Charity will perform again, hopefully at the Oasis Café and Bar. There are enough enticing menu items remaining untested to keep me coming back for many more times. Well played, ladies and well cooked and served, sir.
The Oasis Café and Bar is located at 1348 North Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach. That is per Google and the Oasis Facebook page. The address on the door reads 1314 N. Great Neck. Take your pick, I guess.
Disclaimer: As with everything on Exploding Potatoes, I have received no remuneration or consideration for my review. Heck, the staff did not know anything about me, which is how I like to keep things, that is to say – anonymous. Also, I am not related to anyone in Bananas for Charity, although my daughter did know one of the singers. Would I have given the same music review had my daughter not had that connection? Probably. Those who know me will tell you that I was in the music business way too long to tolerate poorly performed music. If it sucks, I say so. Notice that I did not use that word anywhere in my review. What counts is (1) did I put some cash into the tip jar? Yes. And (2) will I come back and pay again, probably for much of the same set list? Absolutely. Bananas for Charity is a joy to listen to and the Oasis Café and Bar is one of those undiscovered best-kept secrets of Virginia Beach. See for yourself!