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A Thursday filled with monsoons, pasta, and Lyn Koonce

by Lauren Cartwright

It’s a very steamy evening inside Pastabilities, the eclectic eatery that squats on one end of the string of strip malls in the Battleground/Lawndale area. On this Thursday, with the rain coming down in occasional cloudbursts, the crowd seems content to sit and enjoy the vocal and guitar stylings of Lyn Koonce.

Right now Lyn is incognito as a regular restaurant patron, quietly sipping a glass of red wine when I walk in. She quickly comes to life as the bartender points her out to me. She shifts down a few barstools so that we won’t have to yell at each other over the soft din of the other diners. She begins to talk about herself and her music.

She’s animated on the subject of music ‘—one that consumes both her private and professional lives. When Lyn is not working at her job in creative services at 107.5 KZL and Rock 92, you’ll find her at her second job as musical director at Hinshaw United Methodist Church or at her third job playing at Pastabilities.

Chances are if you’ve ever eaten at Pastabilities you have probably either heard her sing or seen her partaking in some of the Italian cuisine. Five years ago Lyn began playing after hearing that owner Cindy Essa was looking to boost the restaurant’s Thursday night business.

‘“I gave her a CD and I’ve been here ever since,’” Lyn said. ‘“I’m here, unless I take the day off, out of town, sick or something like that.’”

She usually begins playing between 7 and 7:30 p.m., and it’s almost 8 now, so she hurries off. Lyn claims when it rains the restaurant gets busier because the people have nothing else to do. Tonight she believes that the weather is on her side.

She starts off with the Joni Mitchell classic ‘“Big Yellow Taxi.’” Some of the diners turn their heads and others seem more interested in their dinners. After she finishes the first song, there’s a smattering of applause.

I turn back toward the bar and order eggplant Parmesan and sit back to enjoy Lyn’s soothing vocals as she sings more popular covers. These are the type of songs, if combined with the right amout of alcohol, that can generally inspire an impromptu sing-along.

Most of the diners are white-collar folk who have come down to Battleground Avenue from their office buildings, yet there are couples and tables of middle-aged women, with some children thrown into the mix.

The terra cotta and pesto-colored walls of Pastabilities add to the relaxing feel. My waitress, Brandy Baysinger, swings by my stool to see how I’m enjoying myself. As she starts walking off she says, ‘“It [the music] is very relaxing. It’s my favorite day of the week to work.’”

Lyn also gigs at weddings, private parties and wine tastings. She’s not really into the bar scene since most of those jobs begin closer to midnight and she has a bill-paying day job to see to in the mornings. Lyn has put out two CDs of original songs. One in 1998, Stealing Laughter and then the second in 2004 titled Long Ride Home. She also gigs with her backup band called the Hours.

Lyn’s earlier prediction about the weather is dead on. As the rain comes and goes, patrons make their way in and out of the restaurant. A couple beside me start to leave and the two men beside them point outside to the downpour and convince them to stay for a few more minutes. When Lyn launches into Sheryl Crow’s ‘“Soak up the Sun,’” I think she’s just being wicked, reminding us of the monsoon-like conditions outside.

Cameron Ward is a regular who sits at a table soaking up Lyn’s music and what looks like to be a cosmopolitan. He said he found a real family at Pastabilities and frequents the place almost five nights a week. He’s been around almost as long as Lyn and has seen her many times. ‘“She’s very, very talented,’” he said.

Between sets Lyn sits down for a few more minutes and tells me about her trip to Nashville, where she went to gauge the climate for new talent in the industry. We talk a little about the ebb and flow of the music business. We agree that it’s not always the talent of the individual but that her timing is also important. Lyn said it wasn’t her time in Nashville. Not yet.

I think Lyn’s not let down by the news. Performing on stage, she says, ‘“has always been in the back of my mind,’” even before she started gigging.

So until Lyn’s tide in the Nashville sea rolls in, she’ll be playing your favorite song every Thursday night at Pastabilities.

To comment on this story, e-mail Lauren at lauren@yesweekly.com.

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