Wednesday, February 08, 2006

02-06-2006 -- the Sidetrack

The benefits of a barroom smoking ban – such as being able to wear the same shirt the next day, if you manage to deke out all the flying fluids inherent in a night on the town – are balanced by the fact we now have to smell everybody’s farts. Bad enough for us boozers, but what about the poor staff? Two-score hours a week, standing in the miasma created when gallons of draft beer are run through hundreds of pizza-powered chemistry sets without the masking Marlboro smoke and the cleansing flare of lighters… man. I heard a story the other day about someone having to eject a party because they smelled like they’d all shit their pants. Everyone wants to burn incense… but nobody wants to “smell like a hippie.”

Yeah, bars stink. Sometimes, though, the stinks come together just right, fuse with the energy of the place to create a smellscape that’s so integral to the ambience, so right for the occasion you can’t believe your nose. “Sometimes,” I say, but the effect has really crystallized for me once: at the Gogol Bordello show Monday night, at the Sidetrack, which stank to high heaven. No farts, just sweat, feet, winter wool, perfume, farts (OK, there were a few) hair care products, pit-stick, beer & liquor, gum, mints, deep frying… and, yes, the faint whiff of cigarettes still clinging to the outside-smokers, carcinogenic molecules rattling around the room like memories… the honest smell of hundreds of people having a really fuckin’ good time. Beautiful.

It’s joy that’s the secret ingredient in this olfactory megamix; everyone knew they were going to have a good time with the gypsy punks but only a few knew exactly how good. When it came down to screaming wild-eyed moustaches monkeying across the lighting rig, waves of fist-and-ass-shaking crazy on the floor, crowd-surfing bass-drum boogieboards and even the railcar people movin’ it a little, people started emitting these vapors, pheromones, the ancient mammal sexchem signals of comfort and happiness that flip your brain to party mode. You can’t fight it; it’s science.

Damn, people were horny that night! A pretty fantastically good-looking crowd to start with, plus all this chemical purring starting up a dancefloor feedback loop (the sexiest of loops)… never, I think, have so many people been left in a wild-eyed state of coitus interruptus by the Track’s clock-strikes-twelve Cinderella policy of show shutdown. Throbbing with all that erotic bioenergy, the neurotransmitter crackle of full-being arousal… a girl I know had so much nowhere-to-go jazz in her that she went home and did paperwork for her shitty job until four in the morning. Children were certainly conceived in this aftermath. Myself, I didn’t do too much flirting; hooked on noticing smells, I was too self-conscious. I’d had a cup of coffee and half a cigarette, and no amount of gum or mints could assure me I didn’t have “teacher breath.”

So, yeah; good show. That was probably the last – second-last, maybe -- time for me at that Sidetrack location, so I’m glad I’ll be able to come at it in memory from a scent perspective; maybe with the emotional triggers of smell-memory in place I’ll be able to muster up genuine nostalgia for a room I’ve had lots of fun in but never felt the least attachment to. Will I dream back with fond longing to hex-grid bathroom tile and dining-car trysts while I sip beer tapped through clean lines and add my stinks to a new-bar smell that will never know the sniffy baseline of I-only-smoke-when-I-drink cigarettes… or will I continue to kind of not care?

photo: Fish

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