In the way that obsessive fans (or academics, as the case may be) compartmentalize heavy metal bands into a confusing web of sub-genres (blackened thrash, funeral doom, death ’n’ roll, um, pornogrind), I think dive bars deserve a similar taxonomic approach. The conclave required to establish the qualifications would probably be interesting, as even a logistic point as basic as “What beer is too fancy for the Dive Bar Conclave?” would probably cause vociferous dissent. There would be publicists insisting that their clients’ new concept, Dive Bar + Kitchen, counts, mixed in with rebuttals from bar owners who don’t see anything divey about ancient foam acoustic tiles and wood veneers. For my purposes, I tend to divide dives into “Dives where you might be able to buy drugs and then get stabbed later” and “Dives where you bring your parents.”
The Happy Armadillo on Everman Parkway (happily) fits into the latter, especially if your parents are into playing those 8-line video games that are peculiarly exclusive to old, divey bars and backwater gas stations — The Happy Armadillo has several of these, plus a couple of pool tables and electronic dartboards. And while the dark brick walls and low lighting make for the kind of moody atmosphere I love, the light during the day spilling in from the shaded windows was positively cheery.
As I sat at the bar, a dude about my age with, evidently, his sixtysomething mom and dad sat at the 8-liners, filling them with dollars and commenting on the bar’s ambient music. At the time, Radiohead’s mopey “Creep” blared from the sound system. The unedited version. The mom murmured to herself about the uncut F-word in the chorus.
“It’s not regular radio, Mom,” her son whinnied. “It’s XM. It’s satellite.”
I live for coincidences, so when he said that, I really hoped to hear “Satellite” by Dave Matthews Band next, but instead, the sterile electronic pump and hiss of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” slithered into my ears. Since the chorus of that song literally proclaims the desire to fuck someone like an animal, I listened eagerly for more noises of motherly dismay, but I guess she either became quickly inured to F-bombs or was completely mesmerized by the frantic whirling and pinging of her game. The dad’s main commentary to the soundtrack was to echo Mark Hoppus’ “it hurts my ears” line when the station played Blink 182’s “Stay Together for the Kids.” Maybe Dad was a big Blink 182 fan. Maybe he likes Mark Hoppus songs best.
Given the man’s tone, I’d guess that Hoppus was probably just hurting the old timer’s ears. For his sake, the former Blink 182 frontman should probably skip playing shows at The Happy Armadillo, though that’s probably not much of an issue. It’s unlikely he’d be booked in the first place, not because he was once a huge rock star but because the Armadillo’s stage is mostly occupied by country bands and singer-songwriters of the troubadour variety. A poster advertising a Tommy Alverson concert on April 21 gave me the notion that showtime at the Armadillo is kind of a big deal.
The vibe seemed welcoming, possibly even raucous when there’s a full house. I imagined the cocktail seating in the middle of the room at full capacity and extrapolated a volume level almost loud enough to drown out the beeps from the 8-liners. If I catalogued bars like these, I’d point out The Happy Armadillo’s mid-’70s vintage feel alongside what appears to be devoted upkeep — it’s neat and clean, even if the carpet’s a little ragged. And while I’d probably never take my parents to see a band like Skeletonwitch or Waco Jesus, I’d have no problem bringing them to Everman for beers. –– Steve Steward
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[box_info]The Happy Armadillo
1701 Everman Pkwy, Everman. 817-293-1402.[/box_info]