The kitchen: heart of the home, tastebud-inspired creations center and that point of bonding for any group. This place of stove tops, counters and cutting boards proves to be a perfect stage for the Independent Film Channel’s “Dinner With The Band,” creating a comfortably laid-back atmosphere.
“Dinner with the Band”
Tuesdays at 11 p.m.
Sam Mason, New York City chef and head man for the dinner aspect of the show, cooks a meal with a spotlighted musical group every week. To be completely accurate, it should be noted that cooking “with” often consists of a kitchen full of people lounging around drinking beer and helping chop up garlic when the occasion demands it.
Mason does basically all the work, and this leads to the entertaining symbiosis of “I feed you, you play me jazzy goodness in my living room while I drink beer and watch.” This shift between cooks and musicians helps break up the half-hour nicely, making “Dinner” go by almost too fast.
Admittedly, it’s hard to learn a hell of a lot about food preparation from just 10 or 15 minutes of very relaxed and not-very-instructive kitchen hangout time, but it’s fairly clear education isn’t really the main goal of “Dinner.” Moreover, when the drummer asks about using the stemmy parts of leafy greens, the contrived and scripted feeling that almost all other cooking shows have adopted is removed entirely. Instead of feeling forced or fake, the banter and conversation flow smoothly, making the experience far more like having new friends over for a meal and jam session than anything else. This is perhaps due in part to the use of Mason’s Brooklyn loft as the setting, making everyone feel far more at home than they would on a fake kitchen or talk show set.
One important detail of “Dinner” (at least in the pilot episode) is that the musicians chosen to appear on the show, while still enjoyable to listen to and clearly talented, are not yet famous enough to be pretentious or blatantly media whoring. Yes, it’s advantageous for the band to publicize their music, but they do so in a palatably tactful way.
Sharon Jones of The Dap-Kings certainly had one hell of a voice, and the music was impressive to a head-bobbing and knee-jiggling degree, but the band wasn’t afraid to complain about the food from past gigs, or start up random conversations about forgetting people’s names. This is one advantage of keeping to the plentiful indie rock genre of musical groups, aside from a greater probability of getting artists to appear: They aren’t turned into sparkly and bedazzled stars — that soulless sort that one can’t help but picture taking a bite of the prepared meal for the cameras, then later having a celery stick and make-up touch up.
As a whole, “Dinner With The Band” is a success — a low-key, easy-going show that combines music, fish battering, hanging out and bass playing in a nearly perfect dosage.