By JASON K. BUSSMAN, 12-Year Server at Webb’s Captain’s Table
A Sunday staple to the Webb’s Captain’s Table dining experience is the man sitting behind the piano. Soon to be reaching the milestone of 20 years playing music for our guests, Chris Vogt has become a Sunday tradition almost as anticipated as the baked chicken, family-style dinners.
At quick glance you may not even notice that Vogt is there, and that is just how he likes it. His musical eye has read the dining room and laid the foundation for a relaxing dinner for close to two decades. He plays every Sunday, as well as big events such as Mother’s Day, Easter, and even the Kentucky Derby. Vogt doesn’t take over the room; he simply plays and enjoys watching people break bread while listening to his piano. Looking and acting the part of Ryan Gosling’s character in the 2016 film “La La Land,” Vogt keeps up the age-old, time-honored tradition of the dapper pianist that has graced fine-dining establishments since the days of “Casablanca” (1942).
He will play anything that he knows how to play; he has played the “Imperial March” from Star Wars for me as I worked a rather hectic Sunday shift. His setlist goes from classical to jazz standards, to Sublime’s “Badfish” or Radiohead’s “Creep” and “High and Dry.”
“In terms of determining a set-list, sometimes I like to make a game of reading the room and trying to anticipate what certain audience members might enjoy or recognize,” Vogt said. “Other times, I’ll just free associate songs to create a certain mood. In almost all cases, I’m playing music that I would enjoy hearing on a night out.”
Vogt himself has become a Sunday staple in the dining room at Webb’s; however, his supporting cast fluctuates. Sometimes he has his long-time guitarist Kevin with him, and other times he brings in fresh faces for the day.
“One of the reasons I love playing at Webb’s hinges on the fact that I’m able to play with a variety of different musicians, all of whom have their own unique sound and style,” Vogt stated. “Sometimes I’ll bring in people for a specific event, such as an old-time, Dixieland band for the Kentucky Derby, and other times it’s just a matter of who is available and who is really motivated to enjoy playing on a given date.”
Vogt has been playing music since he was 11 years old. His parents raised him on classical music, but it didn’t stick. “Once my Dad started introducing me to blues and jazz, I was hooked,” Vogt said. “That’s what I enjoy playing ever since.”
Throughout the week, Vogt teaches English and Literature at Erie Community College in Buffalo. When the subject of books or philosophy comes up at the bar before or after sets, his face lights up and conversation wanders anywhere from Nietzsche to Vonnegut, the importance of Twain, or the pedagogical viewpoint of introducing college-age adults to all of the above.
“One of the things I love about playing is being a musical chameleon and performing a variety of styles of music in a wide range of settings,” Vogt said.
Enjoy the Sounds of Summer with Chris Vogt every Sunday on The Deck from 6 - 9pm through Labor Day.