is the beer this strong?
Drunken Flies, the company party
Drunken Flies twin-string bounce attack passes the time while the
mandolin player orders beer. It's a long wall of taps he's looking
at, and he strums while pacing, trying to decide.
Flies: players stare at each other's hands while their own flurry
His bandmates? I can't see them. Two stalls of darts
partially block the stage from the bar, and I later find that there
was no twin-string attack, unless the double-bass player gets an
unearthly range out of his instrument. Lord, is the beer this strong?
The bar I'm in is County Cork first time since I fled this
Northeast Portland neighborhood after helping open the behemoth
Nature's (now Wild Oats) on Fremont that is its neighbor.
Once a fairly quiet set of corners, this 'hood is now jumpin',
even on a Tuesday night.
Standing at the bar I admire the imperial pints and the low-key
I ponder why on earth Yaphet Koto (one of my heroes) is cooking
here ... Perhaps it's not the famous movie star; I don't remember
him having such long, enviable dreadlocks. But you can't say that
he and the barkeeps aren't performing. Keeping up the neighborhood
The Flies are in another neighborhood entirely, bobbing along gamely
like a bar band in Prague eagerly awaiting a few after-gig shots
of absinthe. Indefinably adroit riffage from guitar, stand-up bass,
fiddle and mandolin like bluegrass fused with silent-movie
soundtracks. It's unobtrusive enough (if that's something you strive
to find in your music) that you can watch the Trail Blazers go down
in flames yet again on one of two available hanging tubes.
Flies publicity shot; click
to visit the Web site. [Jonas Tauber photo]
Is that an old workmate's head bobbing by outside through the unusually
high-set windows? She walks in. Nope, just a short woman with a
passing resemblance who passed by the standard street-level panes.
Lord, is the beer this strong?
Another reversal as the Flies delve into a furious bridge of quiet
pizzicato, hushed yet harried, before bursting back into the louder,
less dynamic body of the song.
With a mind for musicianship, it's delightful to watch a band whose
players stare at each other's hands while their own flurry about.
Not much as far as stage presence but, as I move to a closer table,
I see that at least they're cute.
They plunge on, bouncing in their chairs. Eight or 10 people reward
the hammeringly obscure tunes with applause. The short doppelganger
tosses a check made to "cash" in their tip jar, and makes
sure they know it. I guess it's worth some kind of explanation.
Delving a hand into my bag once or twice, I can't help feeling
like I'm going for a gun. A bit of post-9/11-Columbine syndrome
(loner walks into public place, reaches into grimy bag ...), or
perhaps just a guilty conscience. I always feel like they're watching
me for shoplifting in the stores. But I'm just going for my camera
Finally, I have to ask.
It's gypsy-jazz they say; a little Django, hot jazz, ragtime, maybe
some Irish to fit in with the bar. Of course! The pep, the brains,
the bouncing ... I'm getting visions of the unseen Woody Allen movie,
"Sweet and Lowdown." Somehow, the knowing takes away a
bit of the fun.
Paying up, the fun comes back, the $4 pints (Imperial pints, no
less) magically drop a buck each. Is this the best happy hour in
town, or is something else afoot? I never ask.
Just pay, grin and walk on.
The Drunken Flies will entertain you Tuesdays, 7-10 p.m. (or thereabouts)
into the first weeks of 2004 at least. If they're not there, ask
for them by name likely someone will be glad you did.
and let's not ask how, I've been an invitee (but not as often as
I wish) to a local agency's gala holiday bash.
holiday bash: Why else would everybody get really dressed up
once a year?
And through my interactions with this group I've learned two immeasurable
truths which I believe to supercede all other truths in this
world of ours: 1) You are only what you tell others you are (I can't
emphasize this enough), and 2) Everyone wants to screw everyone
else, and I don't mean this in the bad way, and I don't mean absolutely
everyone, just pretty much everyone.
Why else would everybody get really dressed up once a year, drink
as many martinis, lemon drops, cosmopolitans, margaritas and shots
of Jaegermeister as possible, then start grinding with each other
to brain-meltingly loud music?
Anyway ... good party, with some kind of wacky live Karaoke band
delineating those "too cool for school" from those "too
cool to drool." Or something to that effect, as the crowd-pleasers
kicked Violent Femmes, while the crowd plesiosaurs knocked out '70s
I could never suss going up there without a dancing video-ball
to tell you when to start singing, but they tell me the conductor
(suffering a bad looking 'trick knee' I sympathize, brother)
will point out your entrance.
A word to the wise for the perennial uninitiated: Zeppelin always
does the trick.
Vodka also does the trick for the unwashed who want their martinis
in a violated fashion. Or you could choose a drink with an electric
glowing ice cube, a nice trick that adventurous drinkers could remove
from their drinks and turn on and off by slamming into their shoes.
gala? ... as clear as the memories get.
To sum up: Any dance song with a strong bass beat on the one, two,
three and four is a damn good bet. Siouxsie Sioux still sounds damn
good after three or four martinis* and 10-plus years. You are whatever
you damn well tell people you are (if you can convince them). And,
mostly, everyone wants to screw everyone else, even though we also
choose to set up numerous crazy rules such as these parties,
I suppose to prevent such occurrences, or skate right up
to the line.
Say "hi" to your boss and get a martini for me, I hate
waiting in line.
(*Beefeater fit the bill nicely for me as well as constituting
an actual martini. Since when did vodka take over, necessitating
that I redundantly order gin martinis?)