Listening Local: Sunday Afternoon Music With Isel At Phusion Grille

Singer songwriter Isel begins her eighth season of playing afternoon music at Phusion Grille in Woods Hole. Isel and other local groups will perform on Sundays from noon to 2 PM. - Singer songwriter Isel begins her eighth season of playing afternoon music at Phusion Grille in Woods Hole. Isel and other local groups will perform on Sundays from noon to 2 PM.

On a clear Sunday afternoon in June I walked down Water Street in Woods Hole. I waited for the drawbridge to lower alongside amused tourists snapping pictures. To my right a bustling market occupied the old fire station. A salty looking pirate was selling homemade jewelry alongside vendors of arts, crafts and fresh produce. To my left, at Phusion Grille, diners sitting on the deck that wraps around the building enjoyed lunch while their children tossed scraps of bread to the ducks in Eel Pond. The breeze carried the smell of coffee but it was something else in the air that caught my attention. I heard music.

Tucked in the corner of the dining room was a woman playing a ukulele and man playing upright bass. The initial image of the tiny guitar and giant bass was somewhat comical but the pairing worked. The woman’s voice was warm and a little raspy, somewhere between Nina Simone and Bob Marley, gliding easily over the deep, sure-footed bass grooves and punchy ukulele chords.

While this column often covers nighttime activities, today I am happy to bring you a great weekly music event that occurs during the sunlit hours.

The summer after singer/songwriter Isel Garcia-Renart graduated from college she waited tables at Phusion. Owner Carol Grigas knew Ms. Garcia-Renart, who performs under the name Isel, was a musician and hired her to play Sundays. This will be her eighth season doing so.

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Over the years Isel has played with many different lineups. A full band was a little big for the bustling dining room. After watching wait staff dodge guitar cables and cymbals, Isel decided to streamline. Her current duo with bassist Josh Dayton fits the room perfectly, and you never know who will sit in for a tune.

As time went on Isel found herself pursuing other passions and ventures, and couldn’t commit to playing every Sunday. Wanting to keep the tradition alive she began playing select dates and booking local musician friends to play the rest.

“Since this has been going almost a decade,” Isel told me, “it makes so much sense to share it with people. To have other musicians share themselves with that crowd. It’s not a nighttime bar scene, it’s midday. It’s always sunny, I swear it’s rained maybe twice all these years. You meet so many people who come back year after year. They come back for the music. They want a CD. They want to know the name of your band. They want to know where you’re playing next and are you available to play their parents’ anniversary party on Menemsha, or whatever it may be.”

Some of the acts sharing Sundays at Phusion this summer will Brother’s Rye, John Beninghof, and Jim Decatur.

Talking with Isel you get the feeling this gig is like a second home. She told me that often on a Sunday when she isn’t playing, she winds up at Phusion anyway to check out the music.

“I asked Mama Carol (Isel’s nickname for Carol Grigas) if there was anything she wanted me to tell you about the Sundays and she said, ‘I’m just so grateful for you kids.’ And I’m grateful for her!” Isel told me with a smile.
Isel will be kicking off the season with Josh Dayton and drummer Charles Parker Walton this Sunday, June 1. The music runs all summer long from noon to 2 PM every Sunday. Call the restaurant for weekly listings.

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