J a n u a r y   2 0 0 4

Aural Report

Lord, is the beer this strong?
The Drunken Flies, the company party
by Kurt Dahlke

he 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.

The Drunken Flies: players stare at each other's hands while their own flurry about.

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 self-defining décor.

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 vibe.

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.

The Drunken 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 and notebook.

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.

eanwhile, 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.

The agency's 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 crap-pop.

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? What 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?)

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

site design / management / host: ae
© 2001-2005 nwdrizzle.com / all rights reserved.