The great thing about being the owner of the Blah Blah Bar is the live music programme, which is my personal domain. I get to choose the bands who play here, and I also have the unfortunate task of saying “no”. Punk & Rock bands get an immediate “Sorry, dude”, not because I don’t like their music, but because of Complaint Trevi, who, thanks to this policy, has been quiet of late. Too quiet, actually. In a weird bar-version of the Stockholm Syndrome, I worry about her when there’s no complaint. Last Friday The Lost Souls & The Deathrettes gigged upstairs. Not being the softest of bands, I regularly checked my phone to see if someone was complaining. No Complaint Trevi!? That’s strange, I found myself thinking, I wonder if she’s OK… maybe she’s away for the weekend?
Like C and A, and a host of others, Complaint Trevi is a “regular”. Not in person, of course, but as disembodied omnipresence, a low-tolerance music-averse entity who loves silence and soapies and sleep; an unwilling nocturnal from another dimension, who accesses me only via SMS. A serial complainer – correction, our ONLY serial complainer, to whom, in spite of myself, I have become inexplicably fond of. So this is what it feels like, that weird bond the victim has with his torturer. Of course, in this version, I am the victim. Waiting for the complaint, hating it when it does come, longing for it when it doesn’t….
So, its Friday night, The Lost Souls have done their retro Velvet Undergroundy thing, which I loved by the way, and Heino is getting smashed along with his fan-base, who are putting away tequilas like the agave is on the red list of endangered plants. Fanny (not her real name), usually modest and well-behaved, has also been fed tequilas by Rad (not his real name) who is making a habit of buying bottle service and doling it out to Tom, Dick and Harry (also not their real names), and there is a general feeling of the bar loosening up, to coin a phrase. Fanny is having fits of uncontrollable giggles, balancing precariously on her bar stool, surrounded by a clutch of scoundrels who are sober enough to identify the growing gap in her armor, but too drunk to actually take it. Heino likes my black turleneck jersey, perhaps because he is also wearing one, and it’s nice to be Beatniks together.
The new Funk playlist is pumping rhythms and riffs that make it very hard to keep both feet on the ground and your gyrating hips from bumping into your customers. Rad offers me a shot, shouting ‘sobriety is over-rated, dude’. I take him up, even though I know from bitter experience that inebriation suffers from the same malady. We are having a really nice party, and you should have been there, too. Which is more than I can say about the previous night, if your name is Noel. Or Billy.
So, it’s Thursday night, Hezron Chetty (violin) and Lee Thompson (trumpet) are doing a collab upstairs. The evening is freezing cold, and no doubt most folks are huddled in front of fires, heaters or konkas, depending were you live. Surprisingly though, the bar is not-quite-pumping, but idling along nicely. It’s warm inside, and, after all, we do have tender barkeeps who will listen to your woes, provided you buy a drink. I pop downstairs to top up my whiskey, and come upon a sweet-looking girl who is decidedly unsober (I have learnt the hard way not to refer to customers as ‘drunk’) and apparently having a conversation with herself. A handsome fella, who later introduces himself to me as Noel, parks next to me, and as habit has it, I start a conversation.
“I’m going home with her”, he says proudly, nodding his head towards the sweet girl ‘Mmm, lucky you’ , I murmur, but thinking “best of luck dude”. She has not stopped talking for about 20 minutes, most of it unintelligible, but now she says in a moment of lucidity, “Noel is a really nice boy when he’s sober, but he’s always in trouble when he’s drunk” Noel doesn’t look drunk to me, but you never know. He looks down bashfully, and says, ‘Yea, I’m psychotic, but I’m on meds’ Hahaha, I laugh, you look OK to me, before I’m distracted by C who has just barged into the conversation, saying what’s the difference between a horsefly and a flying horse?
This is so ridiculous, I walk away, which in hindsight, I should not have done. Because twenty minutes later, Noel has his shirt off, his girlfriend is shouting “Just looook at those fucking muscles!” Moments later I am holding onto a transformed Underwoldish Lycan called Noel for dear life, while the rest of the bar is holding onto an enraged customer. A fight! In my bar!! “Noel, Noel” I say calmly but forcefully, “this is not you, man”. “My name is Billy, not fucking Noel, dude” he snarls at me. Meanwhile his girlfriend, like that chick in Pulp Fiction, hops onto the table behind me, screaming “Look what you made him do, motherfuckers!! Look what you’ve done!”
“Come on! All of you!” roars Noel/Billy, egged on by his now suddenly very lucid girlfriend, “I can take you all!” while the rest of the people point at the door a la Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers (The Bar Version). Slowly but surely we move Noel/Billy and his girlfriend outside, where they carry on shouting for a bit, until they realise someone has probably called the cops by now, and they slink off into the night, hopefully never to be seen again. No blood, only 2 glasses broken, and a hole in my kitchen door, leaving me with thoughts like “what the hell were you thinking of when you decided to open a bar?” and “the last time someone had a psychotic attack in your bar you lost your front teeth” and wondering, finally, how on earth I could ignore someone admitting that they were psychotic?
Just before you think that this is a bar where fighting is a regular occurrence, let me stress that this has happened only once before. Both times a switch was flicked and a nice guy – on meds – turned psycho. Makes you wonder about which drugs are really dangerous, doesn’t it?