It’s a low-lit bar. The band takes the scene, as the uninterested saps and boozehounds keep hammerin’ down national beer and watered-down bourbon. The three bearded gents tune the instruments, check the cabling, and do a mic check. Nobody cares.
It’s a non-smoking dive bar which saw its best days in the seventies, peaking the week before the oil crisis. Still, tar and nicotine still emanate from the wooden walls that saw better days, halcyon times when disco was king and “real rock and roll” died in a mountain of cheap angel dust. The dusty, burnt Coors neon sign trembles when the band does a quick level check. It’s bass and drum heavy, with guitars performing more as an incense candle than a shot of adrenaline. They look happy with the levels, as no instrument, not even the voice, supercedes the other’s dominance in the mix.
“Play something we know”, a gravelly voice yells from the back, warbling at the end.
The singer smirks, a salt and pepper five o’clock shadow surrounding his mouth. He whispers “for you” and nods to the bass player. Once the first bass note hits, the entire place shakes and the lights go so bright, everyone needs to close their eyes. Once opened, the room is decorated in pastels, everyone is wearing the clothes they wore in their teens. For those 7 minutes, the band knew the secrets that the audience kept, because they could hear them on their sleep. And they were like Teenage Dream, full of pop bliss, cotton candy clouds and castles with rainbow arches.
“What in tarnation happened?” the people muttered once the band stopped singing about talking in dreams. No answers, but the lights went off and blinked with a cycle of handclaps. A lamentation about a ‘Boy with a coin’ followed, with the handclaps changing pace when they needed to. The room when silent until the roar of a motorcycle swooshed by. A fierce song about tattooed rapists, contradicting the terrible ordeal with an upbeat mood. The audience is now feeling a vertiginous surge of energy, one that they’ve never felt before. They stand up, as if revering what is now a display of fantastic drumming. They hear that ‘The King is half undressed’ and they give in to the energy. But, alas, the king’s reign does not last. It was good to be a king, but the wildflowers that sprung on the wall wither by the passage of time. Such heartbreakin’ notes in this lamentation.
The audience feels now energized. They start singing along, claiming that nobody does it better. A lonely photograph of Carly Simon shines over the bar and as the notes increase in its numerousness, the song climaxes and everything goes dark. The bar is now again low-lit, with the distant notes of 90s alt-rock in the distance. The band vanished and the barman stumbles carefully to the stage. He grabs a piece of paper and it reads: The Romantics. Jellyfish. Katy Perry. Iron & Wine. The Pretenders. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Carly Simon. Hear them. Praise them. The band were never seen again in that bar, but a newfound love for the classics, modern and of old, breathed life into the once dead dive bar.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López