No need to be stuck in 2014
The Black Oak lies at the end of Main Street in downtown Oneonta, nestled between tattoo parlors and the Twelve Tribes’ Yellow Deli. This seedy college bar, a stone’s throw from the Novelty Lounge and its Go-Go Dancers, showcases local musicians each week, offering a refreshing option for students looking to get out and listen to live local tunes. Every Wednesday, the Oak hosts either a funk, jazz or rock night, which garner a steady attendance of college kids in need of a mid-week break from their studies.
While funk nights tend to be on the wild side, with little wiggle room, lots of spilled drinks and plenty of familiar faces, jazz nights are a bit slower-paced and more intimate. The crowd, while about half the size of the crowd at funk nights, is consistently engaged with the music, either staring intently at the young musicians or silently swaying with their sweethearts. Still, seeing as this is a college-town bar, some attendees are more interested in the alcohol than the music. Some in the audience obviously don’t come for the music, but for the whole package that the Oak offers, which is nothing to scoff at.
Unlike some other college bars and music venues I’ve had the chance to scope out, the Oak maintains a certain old-school charm. When you walk down the flight of narrow stairs from Main Street down into the Oak, you aren’t stuck in 2014, but could be transported thirty years in the past, to a time without iPhones, strobe lights and the pestering laser-lights of nearby Gallagher’s “Pub.”
All eyes are on the musicians. Students crowd the stage and interact with the band. Keyboardists lean against the bar, feet tappin’ and head bobbin’ as if we were in a 1950s jazz club. Professors jump on stage and impress their young audience with unexpected skill. The Blonde singer with red lipstick sings, “You give me fever” with surprising gusto, bringing chills to the back of audience members’ necks.
Rather than the typical bump-and-grind you might imagine goes down in the average college scene, the Oak offers something different: a chance to let loose, listen to live music and do something that resembles actual dancing.