Dive on in

Occasionally, we seek out the truly bad, for the dingiest places are themselves a source of entertainment. Down here in the muck and filth, we know that we’ll be entertained by the sheer lack of talent, by God-awful shrieking guitars, by patrons drunk on American beer and Jägermeister shots. In short, the dive bar reigns supreme. Line up the Harleys and all hail the muffin tops spilling from the tops of women’s pants stretched too tightly over increasingly hefty rear ends!

But alas, our expectations for great badness are so often thwarted. Session drummer Tim Metz invited me out to his neighborhood bar, On the Y at 670 Fulton Avenue, noting in his fun-loving way that the bands that play there are always bad. It seemed like a match made in heaven: increasingly embittered local-music critic meets the guarantee of musical badness. The piece would write itself.

And On the Y, God bless it, seemed just perfect. It’s a metalhead bar if ever there was one. 1980s metal posters—Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer—covered the ceiling over the bar. Between them, a collection of 1980s poster girls (a young Heather Locklear, for one) stared down at the patrons with lascivious smiles. Down below, a metal band was setting up with what promised to be a terrifically awful set. There was a massive drum set with double kick pedals, guitars with chain-saw distortion that was neither melodic nor interesting, absurd digital pedal boards, and so on.

A ponytailed patron yelled at the guitar player as he tuned, “Hey! If you’re gonna play, at least play with the lesbo!” He turned to me then, rather importantly, and said, “She’s a lesbian, you know,” motioning to the stereo speakers blaring a Melissa Etheridge song.

But I digress. The problem with expecting the bad occurs when the band is good. The righteous indignation, nay, the ivory tower from which overeducated, elitist idiots like myself cast their stones begins to wobble, sending huge white bricks crumbling down on private universities everywhere.

It was metal band Seven that ruined our hopes for bad metal. Indeed, as a late-1980s-influenced metal band, they were tight, had songs, clearly practiced hard, and were melodic and hooky. The only criticism one could level at Seven is that their singer’s range is narrow, and she tended to emphasize the same couple of notes, which meant the songs grew a bit tedious after a time. It was weak criticism after the mightier-than-thou intellectual decimation I had planned. Damn the band for its superior metal rocking!

Sacramento has many great dive bars, and certainly On the Y can be placed firmly on that list: a metal-flavored neighborhood watering hole that advertises the coldest beers in town and then serves beer slightly colder than room temperature, which means perfect. Also perfect was the inspired drunken dancing of Mr. Play-to-the-Lesbo: part tai chi, part clogging and part stumbling and very, very entertaining.

In case you haven’t heard, Tone Vendor, my favorite record store for weird-beard music, is closing. The owners are returning to their native Florida, so the last day for the shop will be October 29. The mail-order site will continue after a delay. (Mail order will cease from October 28 through November 20.) October 29 will be a sad day for music snobs all over Sacramento, myself included.