PJ's and Gracie
Poised for more jazz-blues and eats
by Sally Mitani
Pop-jazz crooner Michael Buble probably won't be playing Live at PJ's anytime soon, but he may be sitting in the audience. His drummer and good friend, Robert Perkins, is now a partner in PJ's and its sister nightclub, Goodnite Gracie. Perkins' job is to book all the entertainment. "With all the touring I've done, I know a lot of the acts and the booking agents," Perkins explains by phone from Toronto, where he's on tour with Buble. "I'd like to turn PJ's into almost an old-fashioned supper club kind of experience." One of PJ's under-exploited assets is a fully equipped kitchen. Perkins has bumped up the menu to homemade pizzas, burgers, and small plates, but it isn't quite a supper club yet.
In the last few years, PJ's programming has been pretty perfunctory, but the closing of the Firefly Club lays the jazz-blues niche in downtown nightlife wide open. Perkins, with his inside track, seems perfectly positioned to capitalize. Perkins cites Mia Dyson, an Australian rock and blues singer and guitarist who plays at Goodnite Gracie on November 6, as an example of the kind of acts he's going to bring in.
Perkins has played the Firefly and the Michigan Theater, and he's a good friend of Ann Arbor-raised guitarist Randy Napoleon (who has also toured with Buble). At thirty-four, Perkins isn't looking to retire from touring yet, but he was casting around for a business to buy into when he teamed up with PJ's and Gracie's owner Michael Hanna last summer (Hanna also owns Rush Street, but Perkins is not a partner in that). Perkins says he'll be passing through Ann Arbor "as much as I can." But where is he based? "Yeah, my fiancee was just asking me the same thing. She says she'd really like to know," he says. He allows that he probably lives, if anywhere, in Los Angeles.
Goodnite Gracie, 301 W. Huron, 752-5740. Tues.-Sat. 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Closed Sun. & Mon. goodnitegracie.com
Live at PJ's, 102 S. First. 752-5740. Wed.-Sat. 9 p.m.-2 p.m. Closed Sun.-Tues. liveatpjs.com (See Live at PJ's Nightspots for November shows.)
[Originally published in November, 2009.]