Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Alice Donahue’s name. This version has been updated.
It’s Sunday night at Showtime Lounge in Bloomingdale, where the tipsy patron who keeps trying to dance with her dog only qualifies as the second strangest sight. Top honors go to the 83-year-old in the gold lamé blouse, ripping a piano solo during her band’s rendition of Sly Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay.” The pianist’s name is Alice Donahue, known in this room as “Granny” of Granny and the Boys, Showtime’s beloved house band for more than two years.
If Granny and the Boys were ever a novelty act, the novelty finally seems to be wearing off. Yes, some might still be surprised to see “this elderly white lady playing funk music in a band of black musicians,” as Donahue puts it. But as she and her bandmates sink deeper into the rhythm every Sunday night, the closer they feel to the crowds they’re playing for. “I love that our audience is black and white,” Donahue says. “It really disproves whatever is going on [in America] right now. Music heals people, it joins people.”
It keeps people together, too. Donahue’s unplanned foray into funk began nearly 20 years ago when drummer Richard Lynch — who lives in the apartment above Showtime — asked Donahue to be his girlfriend, and then his manager, and then his bandmate. They’ve been writing songs together ever since. “I wouldn’t even be playing in a band if it wasn’t for her,” Lynch says. “She’s the best thing that’s ever happened in my life.”
So if you want to hear what funk-forged-in-love sounds like, head to Showtime any given Sunday — and plan to stay late. “We get funkier in the second set of the night,” Donahue promises. “That’s when the people really start to dance.”
Shows: Sundays at Showtime Lounge, 113 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. facebook.com/showtimebardc. Free.