Fish Circus

So last night was Mardi Gras. I planned on celebrating.

But where to go, what to do? I was not in New Orleans, nor in Buenos Aires or Venezia to properly celebrate Carnivale and all. I am firmly in Los Angeles at the present.

Thank god for myspace. I have linked myself to various local bars and bands that I like, and sure enough, one of my local bars invited me to come out for Mardi Gras to hear Fish Circus. Fish Circus? Never heard of them. But the R Bar, over in Koreatown, is definitely within walking distance, even with heels, for me. I previewed a few songs of Fish Circus, and decided they sounded fun and appropriate for Mardi Gras. Drum, bass, trombone, accordian, violin, vocalist and ocassional keyboard. Violin, accordian and trombone? Let us all eat King Cake!

As usual, I was far too early. But they still made me say the secret password to get in. The bartender and doorman were both outside for a smoke. The band was barely inside, just starting to get set up. It would be a while before they started playing, here it was nearly 9 pm and it looked like just me, the staff and the band were there. Maybe I would have a drink when the bartender returned.

The R Bar is a classic LA dive bar, the kind that is unmarked, anonymous and you have to be in the know about it to even know it is there. The doorkeep frequently stands inside, and looks through the peephole, but he does at least open and close the door for you, everytime. There is no velvet rope, there is no sign. You just gotta know. Probably the smokers clustered outside and the din of music from inside would be give aways, but I was inside, happily listening to the music, and so wouldn’t know.

I like the R Bar. It is dark and has private corners and various different areas. There are dim chandeliers everywhere, a CD jukebox, glassy surfaces that separate areas, but some are mirrors and some are glass to confuse, and there are drapes of fabric and wide planked wood floors, a granite countertop bar, and an old fashioned cash register. It strives to straddle a different time, a different era, perhaps a speakeasy. It is not as much of a dive bar as I had hoped, I realized when I got my bill. My amaretto sours were $8 each, I found. True dive bar would be cheaper than that, but considering every time I attend, I am listening to music I enjoy, I think they know their own value. In the dreamworld I spend time in, I can imagine the decor and arrangement of the R Bar lending itself just as easily to my nighttime hours only cafe, where bands and audiences come AFTER the bars have closed.

But anyway, the band. As they were setting up, I heard the drummer was recuperating from having had all four wisdom teeth removed, and was concerned about his swollen face. The vocalist was trying to deal with a stuffed up nose.  But one would never guess that either musician was under the weather. They played two sets, and once they added their vocalist, they really shined.

She is a true performer. Batting her super fake eyelashes, she squeaked and squealed, shook and shimmied, and straddled audience members at times. She could be a punk rocker, a hip hop artist, a belly dancer, a 1920s vixen or simply a singer in a band. Betty Boop came to mind, with her saucy minx ways. She had the moves and attitude of whomever she decided to channel for the moment. All my pictures with her in them were a blur. Then again, the violinist refused to hold still either. He performed the role of lead guitarist, complete with effects pedals. And we all know what a sucker I am for pedals, especially delay. Even the trombonist doubled doing scat lines and shouting angry lyrics at the growing crowd. At the end, the singer reminded the audience to buy their merchandise or else the trombonist would kill us. A plausible threat, I thought, as he was a sizeable man, not to be trifled with. And that trombone. Who knows what he would be willing to do with that!

I left before angry trombone attacks could happen, and happily walked home again, a little tipsy for my efforts of supporting the venue. All in all, an appropriate celebration to the spirit of Mardi Gras.

Fish Circus at R Bar

Fish Circus at R Bar

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