The scene at Johnny’s Gone Fishing was picturesque: a charming coffee shop, a warmly lighted gathering area and the pervasive aroma of fresh coffee. But something was different. Above the whirring of the coffee grinder, above faint murmurs of conversation, you could hear it — the distinct sounds of classic blues.
Anuraag Pendyal, 24, and Jim Lande, 63, the two members of the band Y’all Pendyal, came to perform blues and folk music at Johnny’s on Thursday Nov. 6, the first stop on their Southern tour.
For Pendyal, a Carrboro native, playing at Johnny’s was like a trip down memory lane. He grew up off North Greensboro Street, attended both McDougle Elementary School and McDougle Middle School and worked at Elmo’s Diner from 2007 until 2012 when he graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in English and creative writing.
“I liked growing up in Carrboro a lot,” Pendyal said. “I was here for almost 20 years, and it’s almost like it’s hard to find new things in this town for me now. But as far as growing up goes, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
Pendyal can best be described as a “jack of all trades.” At the age of 5, Pendyal started to play the piano. His musical talents don’t stop there. Pendyal later taught himself how to play both the guitar and cello. He can also speak and sing in several languages, including Spanish, French, Portuguese and Marathi, the language of his Indian heritage.
Until recently, Pendyal never knew he wanted to become a professional musician. After his move to Washington, D.C., Pendyal joined various musical groups, from performing with a hip-hop and rhythm and blues group to accompanying jazz singers. He also gives piano, guitar and cello lessons.
Pendyal met Lande, the other half of Y’all Pendyal, in Washington, D.C., through Craigslist. Pendyal didn’t know anyone when he first moved to Washington, D.C., so he posted an ad titled: “Piano player available.” Lande contacted Pendyal, saying, “I play the horn and sing stuff. How do you like the blues?” Pendyal agreed to meet with Lande, and after playing together for hours, Lande and Pendyal decided to form the band. An instant duo.
Lande, born and raised in Washington, D.C., has always been a blues enthusiast, owning more than 60 clarinets, he says. After working for the Federal Communications Commission for almost 40 years, Lande enjoys his retirement by playing with Pendyal.
Pendyal is the pianist and guitarist for the group, and Lande plays the saxophone, harmonica and clarinet. Both Pendyal and Lande sing. They play various types of blues and folk music, including conventional songs, original pieces and renditions of popular pop songs like “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry.
Lande came up with the name for the duo — Y’all Pendyal.
“Y’all because he’s from down here and Pendyal because it’s his last name,” Lande said pointing to Pendyal.
The two, though seemingly different in appearance and age, connect both musically and personality-wise. Lande’s strong, deep voice complements Pendyal’s high, soothing one. Lande cracks jokes and interacts with the audience during their performance while Pendyal laughs and joins in on the banter. Their relationship is comfortable, even brotherlike, despite the large age difference.
“He buys the pizza, and I drink some beer. Then we play,” Pendyal said jokingly when asked about their relationship.
“Sounds like a plan. Let’s do it,” Lande replied with a smile.
Jessie Benson was at the performance to debut her beeswax and oil paintings that hang on the walls at Johnny’s. As an anesthesiologist and intensive care unit physician at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, she soon plans to leave medicine to pursue her artwork. Benson comments that the duo’s chemistry was undeniable.
“I like how much they enjoy playing, and I also like the affection I can feel between them,” she says. “They genuinely enjoy each other and playing together, and for me to watch that makes the music experience so much better.”
Benson says she was excited when she found out that she was going to be paired with Y’all Pendyal for her opening. Not only did she get to discuss her work, but she also got to hear an exciting new band, she says.
“It’s interesting, I don’t typically like blues music, but I’m really enjoying it tonight,” Benson says. “It’s making me think I need to reconsider this genre.”
On their tour, the duo plans to perform in similar venues in Asheville, Birmingham, New Orleans, Cleveland and Knoxville before they return to Washington, D.C.
“It’s really more of a vacation for us,” they both said.
With Lande wailing on the saxophone and Pendyal’s piano playing finesse, the duo put on a passionate performance that guests will not soon forget. After one of their last songs, Lande inhaled deeply as he put down his clarinet.
“And that’s why they call it the blues,” he said.