The Sodden Bear

Somewhere in between a college frat and a skid-row bar, there’s the Golden Bear. This property may be the most prolifically named club space in Midtown. It has gone through incarnations as Cafe Paris, Cafe Mexicas and the 24-K Cafe. Although it’s safe to assume the current moniker refers to the icon at the center of California’s state flag, it’s easier to picture a kitschy plastic bear clutching a frothing beer in its paw. Do people in Sacramento drink much, drink deeply and enjoy their libations? The Bear says yes.

On Friday, at 11 p.m., it was DJ Roger’s birthday party, and the place was nearly filled with people in T-shirts and jeans. Another costume party with a crowd uninspired to dress up: Most patrons missed out on the discounted cover charge for participating in the evening’s masquerade.

Outside, people smoked in the ample tobacco-enjoyment zone provided by the porch. Inside, the small space—dominated by the bar, the stage, tables and chairs—didn’t leave much room for dancing. An attractive brunette with long straight hair, jeans and a sleeveless black top turned to the man sitting beside her at a table.

“I get a lot of drunk boys,” she said importantly. Oh? As if this alone should explain everything.

Nodding slowly, she looked at him with an odd combination of intensity and absence. After a long pause, she announced, “I’m going to go take care of my drunk boys now” and departed.

The Proles launched into a rock ’n’ roll set with drummer Justin Goings playing his face off admirably, twisting behind the kit like a young Keith Moon. Driving, melodic, roots-rock-influenced songs held down the set.

Halfway through, someone remembered to turn the lights down. In appearance, there’s nothing particularly Orwellian about the Proles, or even working-class, yet the name brings to mind an anarcho-punk band like Crass. But what’s in a name? Three-part Beatlesque harmonies retrieved the band from the typical. While not the most original act, they have heart and play with ferocity.

The television above the bar played Japanese cartoons. Bartenders frantically tried to keep up with demand as the evening ground on. DJ Roger, wearing a golden bird mask, was talkative. “This is my party,” he said. “I didn’t want to have to DJ drunk, so I made a CD with my favorite bands, and have my favorite local band playing.” The DJ mix played classic punk cuts from the Clash, the Ramones and others. As the night progressed, drowning-in-suds desperation tinged the festivities. Out on the porch, a lonely-looking girl accosted two guys as they walked past.

“Hey!” she said. “Do you want a sip of my beer?” One of them stopped and had a drink. A moment later, glass shattered somewhere nearby.