The words, sung by a female voice and carried along by electric guitars, organ and drums, drifted out of the Nautical Turtle Tavern, leaving a question hanging in the late-night air:
And so I wake up in the morning
And I step outside
I take a deep breath and I get real high
And I scream from the top of my lungs
Whats going on!...
If one opened the tavern door at 107 Public Square to find the source of that voice on a recent Tuesday night, he would have passed the gleaming bar on the left with energetic and chatty bartender Todd D. Big Daddy Smith holding court, continued beyond the two televisions and the QuickDraw screen and eventually reached the rear of the establishment, just beyond the white surfboard hanging on the right. There, Watertown resident Beth Anne Hutchins was at the microphone in an approximately 15-by-20-foot area belting out her cover of the song, Whats Up by 4 Non Blondes, as the house band played behind her.
There, it became a little more obvious whats going on as Ms. Hutchinss audience gathered around the stage, offering encouragement and joining along in the chorus: And I say, hey, yeah, yeaah ...
It was open mic night, called Jam Night, at the Nautical Turtle.
The weekly event, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, has become wildly popular with local musicians and live-music fans.
They always let me sing with them, Ms. Hutchins said of the band after her performance, which at the end was greeted with applause and cheers from the approximately 50 people at the tavern. They welcome other bands, other musicians here. I love it.
Whats Up is a popular choice at Jam Night. A week after Ms. Hutchins sang the song, it also was the choice of Taylour L. Scanlin, Fort Drum liaison at Carthage Area Hospital.
Orchestrating the weekly event is keyboard player Eugene J. Gino Cappucetti, who also is a member of the local band Wagners Agenda.
I pretty much direct everything, said Mr. Cappucetti, a wiry fellow who plays his keyboards standing up, probably because he cant seem to keep his legs, or the rest of his body, still.
Mr. Cappucetti is the cornerstone of the revolving-membership house band for Nautical Turtles Jam Night, which begins at 10 p.m. On this night, election night, he was joined by Paul Manfredi on drums, Anthony Ubriaco on vocals and guitar and Christian T. Schenk, a Fort Drum soldier, on bass.
We get a nice mix of patrons and musicians, and its rarely ever boring, said Spc. Schenk, a member of the 10th Mountain Division Band, during a break. You never know whos going to show up.
Heres the deal, Mr. Cappucetti said. If you want to come up and play, maybe we know your tunes and maybe you dont know ours. We figure out a middle ground and get you up.
Mr. Cappucetti, a 2004 graduate of LaFargeville Central School, began his jam nights six years ago at the Depauville Hotel, which has no house band. He still hosts jams there on Thursdays.
We have a lot of talented people around, Mr. Cappucetti said. A lot of diversity as well.
He got the idea to create the Nautical Turtle Jam Night from Smokin Joes Blues Cafe, which previously occupied 107 Public Square.
They always had the little open stage where you could walk in and jam, Mr. Cappucetti said. I learned to improvise with other players.
The cafe had been closed for a few years when Watertown business partners Anthony M. Heaney and Daniel B. Fraser purchased the building and opened the Nautical Turtle last year.
Its done really well, Mr. Fraser said of Jam Night. I dont think anyone has really done it around here. It brings a lot of musicians from Jefferson County together. Theres even musicians from around the country who have stopped in and said Wow! Weve got some really good musicians in the north country.
Mr. Fraser said he got the name for his establishment after visiting a tavern in Florida named the Naughty Turtle. He considered using that name for his new place, but settled on Nautical Turtle instead.
Fort Drum Sgt. 1st Class David Cotti came to Jam Night on election night with some of his buddies, who, like him, are members of the 10th Mountain Division Band. Sgt. Cotti also leads a smaller band, the Space Banditos, made up of six soldiers. There are three horn players in that funk-heavy group who enjoyed a long jam session with the Nautical Turtle house band that night.
Its just a fun time a fun venue, Sgt. Cotti said. It allows musicians to come out and stretch their legs, so to speak. It gives everybody a chance to collaborate with all the different musicians here in town.
Justin C. Reynolds, one of the house band players who wasnt performing this night, said he has seen guest performers get on stage with music selections ranging from folk to heavy metal.
Its always a surprise each week, he said. If somebody has a random song they wrote and want to play, give us the chords and well follow right along.
Music fans like Wayne J. Duprey of Watertown are appreciative of what Mr. Cappucetti and his bandmates have created at Nautical Turtle.
What theyve done for the area is something that hasnt been done in decades, Mr. Duprey said. Musicians who have been playing for 20 or 30 years have been coming in and jamming out on a Tuesday night. What these guys have done for live music has been phenomenal. They brought it back.
Another dedicated fan of Nautical Turtles jam night is Michael Hough, a native of England, who played drums in the progressive rock group Flash, formed by former Yes guitarist Peter Banks and vocalist Colin Carter in 1971. Mr. Hough, as part of other groups and touring shows, has toured extensively in England, Germany and the U.S. and is also a composer and former music instructor. He is now a part-time auto salesman. He often joins the Nautical Turtle house band on drums.
As for how he ended up in Watertown, Its a long story man, he said. I retired and had been living in Tennessee for the past 20 years. I was in the car business and played drums on the weekend.
He said he moved to Watertown a few years ago.
I like to hang out here, listen to the different people and maybe play a couple of songs, Mr. Hough said. The music is great. Theres a lot of talent up here in Watertown and the north country.
And to see it at the Nautical Turtle, Mr. Smith, the bartender, said, is free. Theres no cover charge.
Its got a good vibe, he said. This summer, people loved it here. But nobody here is getting rich. There are lulls. But theres always the promise that the next week is going to be better.