It’s cramped, it’s drafty, and it hasn’t changed a bit since 1978. It’s the antithesis of North Shore prepster-chic. So why does the Rhumb Line continue to draw them in? This beloved Gloucester bar is all about the music. Over the years, big talent has graced the Rhumb Line’s small stage, including Billy Joel, Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, Luther “Guitar” Johnson, Randy Newman, and Bobby Hebb of “Sunny” fame.
There’s an artist or band onstage seven nights a week, and “any given night, you will hear musicians who will blow you away,” says Cindy Sisco of Marblehead, a Rhumb Line regular. Every night at this bar has a different character: Monday is devoted to open jam rock ’n’ roll, hosted by a local band, perhaps the Bandit Kings. There’s soul on Tuesday with Soul Force Five, and folk music on Wednesday, featuring Fly Amero, from the band Orleans, who’s sort of a godfather to Gloucester musicians. Thursday is a total blast, if you can squeeze in: There’s a rollicking dance party with Dave Sag, who plays stand-up bass with a cavalcade of local musicians, like vocal powerhouse Diane Blue.
On weekends, there’s always a great band — and big crowds — so in-the-know guests park at the Gloucester T station and pay for parking, if the bar’s small parking lot (and spaces across the street) are full. Sundays get a bit mellower, with original acoustic music, and as always, the headline musician will bring up a few friends from the crowd to play along. Night after night, the room is filled with musicians, on stage, at tables, and at the bar.
And that may be the only downside here: The Rhumb Line definitely has a “clubby” club. It feels like everybody knows everybody. But if you love live music, don’t mind the absence of TVs (there aren’t any in this bar), and prefer draft beer to the latest froufrou cocktail, you’ll be in good company.
Fancy, it isn’t, but the vibe is relaxed and cozy, like seeing a band in somebody’s rec room, back in the day. And — need we say it? — fancy dress is not required.
The Rhumb Line serves lunch and dinner, including specials like prime rib, but they do best with items like the Cuban sandwich and buffalo chicken tenders, served with a pile of ultra-crispy fries. They get the drinks right, with a decent list of beers on tap (and the appropriate cinnamon-sugar rim on a glass of Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale).
But really, it’s all about the music.
Rhumb Line 40 Railroad Ave., 978-283-9732; www.therhumbline.com. Open nightly till 1 a.m.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com.