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Café Nine is a real bar, with brick walls and a crudely walled stone basement and brick floor. Upstairs is a small stage and long bar with Bass and Guiness on tap, and posters of the top second tier Ameicana acts: Dave Alvin, The Iguanas, Los Straitjackets, Big Sandy, Robbie Fulks, and even BR549 have played this tiny room. Because it’s got that undefinable American classic barroom vibe. We’ll play there even when we’re turning down Conan O’Brien. As a matter of fact, just to feel empowered, we’re hereby officially turning down Conan O’Brien. Conan, we love you. You are very funny. But we’re going to have to say no.

The Café Nine night began with a good crowd, all a bustle with the anticipation of country rock. At 9:45, something strange happened. An earnest young man took the stage and sang an a capella version of an old slave song. He then brought up a keyboard playing friend and they jammed. The audience watched. The Hawks fled the room. Which was a big mistake, for the noodlers noodled unsupervised with self-empowered fury.for a solid hour.*By the time Tony did his set and the Hawks set up it was midnight. We played seven songs and the bartender announced last call. Good night, New Haven. We’d love to come back, if you bag the opener.

*A series of comments on the opening act:Improvising is not for the beginner. The most successful improvisers are arguably the jazzers, who are highly trained and have played complex tunes a million times before they are free to do what their inner voices dictate. When you know one or two scales, you should wank at home. — Paul L

It sure made me wish that samplers were never invented. – Paul MOr delay pedals. – Rob

Jon Brion can do this kind of thing. – Paul LSo then he played this bad part that he looped, and I’m hanging with it, and then he plays this part—de deee deet deet deet dee dee dee deet deet—completely unmusical, and that’s when I walked out of the room. — Paul M

We should have kicked his ass. Paul L and I were on the verge of kicking his ass outside the club. Sort of when the two writers beat the shit out of Dan Rather on the street, as an artistic act. They were wearing masks. – RobWhat do you think about a u-ey here? — Paul M (we’re lost somewhere in Connecticut near New York)

The two brothers later wrote this book about how they lost their family’s entire fortune gambling on the riverboats in Tunica, Mississippi. – RobBrothers? – Shawn

They were white guys. Shawn, you got any ibuprofen . . . bitch? — RobThere’s this guy in L.A. who always loops stuff, and I say to him, why don’t you just play it? –- Shawn.

End of conversation. We’re at the Athenian Diner in Milford, Connecticut, and it’s time to eat. Kind of hot outside.