In September 2010 I quit my job at a big national company to become a full-time stand-up comedian. Due to the economy, clubs were closing at record pace. This week I decided to go by myself to a biker bar to do my nightlife article. I am an awesome decision maker.
I arrived at Coyote Joe's around 8:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, specifically because I had read that they had a weekly Blues Jam. The parking lot had a trolley car parked to the right, complete with Harley logos and a picture vaguely resembling Wile E. Coyote. I am assuming this was Coyote Joe himself.
As I approached the entrance I noticed only two motorcycles in the entire parking lot. Sweet, I thought to myself. Now I have to be honest, I really don't have a fear of bikers, but I do have a fear of large men who are good at fighting. They often seem to decide that I simply talk too much or have cast an ill-advised eye too many times at their lady friend. Enough for them to justify starting a confrontation I then have to talk myself out of to avoid a beating.
I walked through the front door and the stage sat to my left. Two waist-high red cases were in the middle of the walkway in front of me. They belonged to the first band that was meticulously unpacking drum equipment from one of them. Billy Idol's "Cradle of Love" played on the jukebox as I continued inside.
One glance over the rest of the bar and I quickly became at ease with familiarity. Booths lined the wall to my right all the way back to the door. I stepped up to the bar and found myself an empty spot in front of the drink mat to order a draft. I paid for my beverage and made my way to one of the booths.
It hit me all at once as I looked at the busty lady-shaped glass as the small bubbles ascended quickly to the surface of my beer. This was the kind of place my dad spent time in when I was a child. I used to think it was because he preferred being in a bar to being at home. Maybe it really was the fact that he found peace being around others who were equally stressed about the challenges of life. Maybe he just liked sharing the moment where they all got to relax and breathe a deep sigh as he did for the momentary escape from a rat race they weren't in control of.
This place is for the regular Joes who occasionally let loose and rev their Harleys as they exit the parking lot just as you or I would say goodbye.
The band struck the first notes of their opening number and I felt like I was in a bluesy episode of "Ren and Stimpy." The reverb was thick on the guitar and the notes were flying as if they were trying to teach a class full of beer drinkers how to set their souls at ease. The next number was slow and heavy with soulful lyrics about loss, as is typical of most blues songs. The band was Labron Lazenby & the L.A.3, a local blues outfit.
By this time I had decided it was time to make my way to the restroom. I arrived to a toilet in the middle of the room and a trough to my right with ice lining the bottom of it. I guess a night of the blues would not have been right if there had been a towel boy and a private lavatory for each guest. As I arrived back to my seat I felt the urge to Google why exactly people put ice in urinal troughs. I came to find out the melting ice keeps smell from rising and provides enough water to help "flush" away the No. 1. Gross.
I stepped outside and talked to the band and their manager after the show. They were extremely humble and pleasant for musicians with such talent. While they had provided a great soundtrack for my evening, the bar itself had provided the appropriate outlet for the music played. An audience full of Coyote Joe's ready to howl at the moon before they retreated into the night back to their families; all eagerly awaiting their arrival, never quite sure why they needed to escape in the first place, but glad to see them return happier nonetheless.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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