Around these parts this time of year, depending on your pleasure, thoughts turn to old cars, balloons, back to school, or, for many, that thing in the desert. Yes, Burning Man is almost here. Despite a good decade or so passing since I last attended, my fondness and nostalgia for the event is rekindled—see what I did there?—annually by seeing art cars, overloaded RVs and dust. A recent tip about a change to become non-smoking prompted a visit to Jub Jub’s Thirst Parlor. It’s as close as I will come to the playa this year.
Jub Jub’s is more than just another example of Burning Man manifesting itself in the Truckee Meadows, like big sculptures and fire dancers. At a minimum, a spin-off in name from longtime theme camp Jub Jub’s Plastic Circus, it’s more than just a bar or place to see bands. Jub Jub’s is a kind of cultural hub.
My first visit was a few years ago when I went to see the Mermen play. They’re a psychedelic surf act from California I saw play Black Rock City some 20-plus years ago, earning my fandom for life. I dragged my butt down to Wells Avenue for a great performance, but the lasting impression was of being subjected to the smokiest room I have ever been in.
Fast forward to now, and the aforementioned change to non-smoking surprised me. A quick visit to Jub Jub’s website confirmed it and gave me the good news that not only is the bar open on Sundays, it also offer a half-price happy hour nightly from 5 to 7 p.m., prime time for me to stop by after work.
I wandered down the alley from the street looking for the inexplicably hidden door, a little easier to find in daylight. Jub Jub’s is like two venues in one, the bar room with—obviously—the bar and a stage for 21-and-older shows, plus a showroom I’ve never been to for all-age shows. Jub Jub’s may have the elusive best of both worlds—booze for the adults and a live music venue for the underage crowd.
It was too early for anyone to be gathering for the evening’s bar room show, a local metal band opening for a couple of touring acts passing through. A few customers sipped drinks or played one of several pinball machines—a nice option if you want to do more than drink or shoot pool. The place conjures the spirit—bikes on the wall, paintings, funky lamps for lighting, eclectic flair and stickers offering a wink to Burner jokes and ECV alike. It would be easy to see this as a ripoff or appropriating the culture, but it feels like a genuine extension of it, a tribute.
Although the website described a handful of signature cocktails—interesting concoctions that sounded a little fancier than I expected here, but probably reign in Black Rock City—beer seemed to be the right call. Half a dozen taps and a cooler displaying various macro lagers, the usual craft beers and a couple of surprises were available, but I checked my inner beer geek at the door and went for a playa-friendly PBR draft. I would have felt awkward ordering a Belgian lambic here.
As one draft led to another—$1.50 happy hour pricing practically requires a second one—I noticed a sign about winning a case of Jameson. All it takes is rolling a natural Yahtzee and a buck. Lady luck wasn’t with me that night, but rolling dice with a friendly bartender for whiskey sure felt like a Black Rock City diversion.