Last Saturday, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars played the Granada Theater in Dallas, and with my wife and I being tireless bleeding hearts and all – and devoted music fans – we trekked all the way out to Big D to join a teeming mass of people who bounced up and down and did all kinds of other weird, not-quite-dancing stuff to the band’s reggae-ish Afro-pop.
Led by Reuben Koroma, West Africa’s answer to James Brown and Elvis, SLRAS began playing together not long ago, mainly as a way to keep their and other refugees’ spirits high in the refugee camps. One major documentary and an appearance on Oprah later, and SLRAS have become an international sensation, bulldozing the racial and social barriers that typically prevent similar kinds of crossovers. For better or worse, most of the Granada crowd was white.
A couple of hours before the show, the wife and I hit some of Granada’s neighbors on Greenville Avenue, starting with The M Bar, a gorgeous, dimly lit, gothic-looking nightclub with a patio and high ceilings, wrought-iron accents, and – believe it or not – friendly service. And to think: I’ve spent pretty much the past five years talking smack about how uppity Dallasites are. Granted, my wife and I were pretty much the only people at the bar, and the two tall, skinny, effectively naked young women who sashayed in on skyscraping heels as we were walking out gave us the harrowing suspicion that douchebaggery was right around the corner. Still, I’ve been to bars an empty beer bottle’s throw from our Fort Worth house and have had to wait – no kidding – minutes on end even to be acknowledged as a customer, let alone get served a freaking drink. Had a similar experience greeted me at The M, maybe my first, honest-to-goodness impression of Big D nightlife would have been worse. As it was, though, I venture to say that I will be back (on a balmy Saturday afternoon or at night during pre-douchebag hours, of course).
Equally cool but in a totally different, decidedly more energetic way was the Granada, a spacious yet comfortably grungy auditorium that one of us scenesters needs to steal and plant in Fort Worth posthaste. Though our waitress apparently forgot about us, we met a few people there who were more than amicable (and distracting) enough to wipe any frustration from our faces. For the record: My wife was partly instrumental in getting SLRAS to perform last Saturday, their only stop in Texas on their current tour. But whatever. The Dallas that always looked so far away to me is, in reality, only 30 minutes from home and even closer when I consider the genuinely cool vibe I got there last Saturday. – Anthony Mariani
The Potty Awards
When you spend as much time in bars as I do, you tend to nitpick. The quirky things that a layman might find charming, I find repulsive. Surly bartenders, thick plumes of cigarette smoke, obnoxiously loud music are all great – when you’re 22. Don’t get me wrong. I like my haunts to have a little attitude. But I also like to, y’know, be served a drink at some point, and it’s sort of nice to be able to talk to the people I’m with without having to pantomime my two cents or scream!
Maybe I’m just getting older, or maybe my punk-rocking roots are withering. In any case, I like to know that when I use a place’s facilities, I won’t be accosted by the smell of ancient tube socks or raw sewage. The room doesn’t have to be pristine, mind you, simply a specific kind of dirty, the kind that reminds you that you’re in a bar bathroom but one whose stewards own a toilet brush (and know how to use it).
I believe in giving credit where credit’s due. There are several local bars that proudly claim space on the clean side of that line, and I believe they should be recognized. Hence my inaugural Potty Awards, given to the bars with the cleanest – relatively speaking – johns. (Women’s restrooms don’t count. As far as I can tell, they are always – at least in comparison – immaculate.) The criteria are simple: all toilets should work at all times, every stall should have a working lock, the sinks should work, there should be soap and some means of drying your hands nearby, and, most importantly, the smell shouldn’t make you wanna puke. Also, I have excluded any bathroom that has an attendant. My business is just that: my business. There’s nothing creepier than some dude with 60 bottles of cologne watching you do your thing.
So, in no particular order, here are the winners:
Durty Murphy’s, 609 Houston St., downtown. Nothing spectacular, but I recently left that bathroom confident that I didn’t catch hepatitis A.
The Shamrock Pub, 2710 W. 7th St., near West Side. The Sham’s sanitary sanctuary is even more impressive, given how busy the bar can get.
Ye Olde Bull & Bush, 2300 Montgomery St., near the Cultural District. The legendary Brit-pub’s pitstop is clean, and there’s plenty of reading material on the walls, though much of it was apparently written by a teenager. (Yes, Timmy, we all know war is bad. Now go back to your Legos.)
J&J’s Hideaway, 3305 W. 7th St., Cultural District. The sinks always make me feel as if the bathrooms had just popped out of some rabbit hole: groovy.
Malone’s Pub, 1303 Calhoun St., downtown. Barren, clean-ish, perfect.
Congratulations to all of the winners. May they all, much like me, continue to be full of … – Eric Griffey
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