I can hear the galloping jangle of the Spikedrivers half a block before I reach Rumba’s door. There’s a lively crowd already jamming to the baritone voice and whiplash Western blues guitar.
Yippee aye yay! Yippee aye ohhhh!
A woman gets up from her table, twirls, and high kicks repeatedly. It’s quite the hootenanny considering it’s still happy hour on a Thursday. The rest of the patrons, many hirsute and decked in flannel and denim, two-step and shuffle in place as the band rollicks through song after song.
“Let’s make it real country, Fox!” one of the singers yells, presumably at a band mate, though it wouldn’t be too surprising to see a pet fox in this crowd. I grab a tall PBR and head out to the patio.
The Spikedrivers take a break, and a merry band of pranksters follows me outside from the dance floor. An older gent lights a colorful glass pipe and the air takes on a funny scent. The ruckus from inside quickly spreads across the back patio despite the ugly clouded sky of a fickle spring evening.
A few cartoon-strip murals full of growling warplanes and anthropomorphic animal friends adorn the dark wooden fencing. The bright colors and whimsical designs provide a fitting backdrop for tonight’s crowd. The corrugated metal of Rumba’s rear exterior makes the whole scene feel a bit like a party on a balcony behind a refurbished barn.
The roll of conversation is punctuated by coughing and the flinty click of lighters. Ooooh that smell!
Fourth Street Bar
Again, the music pumps up the block before I’ve spotted the raised concrete patio in front of Fourth Street Bar. This soundtrack hits the opposite end of the spectrum – Disclosure’s dance hall hit “Latch” throbs out onto the dozen or so drinkers toughing out the cold. There are a few picnic tables scattered about, but the smart money’s on the soft wicker chairs around the circular deck tables.
A gust of wind picks up, blowing my pen to the ground where it explodes. Three guys at a table nearby ask if I’m writing a book.
“No, it’s an article.”
“This. Drinking on patios.”
“You picked a shitty night for it.” I nod, shivering in agreement.
Inside, the bar’s busy but not overly crowded as people mill around waiting for the live music of Local Love Thursdays, when Fourth Street offers free admission to see Columbus bands. There are also $3 selected Ohio beers, and the Fat Head Sunshine Daydream sounds like the thing to transport a person somewhere warmer. It’s delicious.
Just after 11, Sega Genocide launches into a set of noisy, raw garage rock. On my way out, the intensity of their music blends with the saccharine tones of the pumped-in songs spilling onto the patio.
Ace of Cups
I turn down a side street between bars, and there sits an idling motorcycle, light from the headlamp pooling in the center of the road. A person with a hooded skeleton sweatshirt zipped over his head sits in the saddle. Glowing white facial bones turn to watch as I pass. Strange vibrations pulsing through the city tonight…
The denizens at Ace of Cups are punk archetypes, tattoos and piercings and heavy leather coats with shiny chains. Out back, a spacious fenced-in enclosure constitutes the patio, shared by local-famous Ray Ray’s, as evidenced by a fat, black smoker and lingering traces of barbeque aroma.
A man and a woman join my chilly patio party of one and begin a heated discussion of carpentry and art. Then the conversation takes a turn:
“I don’t know you well enough for hand-holding or cocaine,” she says loudly. What the hell is going on tonight?
A band plays speed punk on the stage inside. The lead singer screams unintelligible lyrics while wearing nothing but boots and saggy pink boxer briefs. He asphyxiates himself with the mic cord while dropping to his back. The drummer flings a crushed beer can into the crowd. It skitters across the floor to the delight of two women nearby. My quota of weirdness met for the evening, I make my way to the door.
The sky has cleared and puffy white clouds float along midnight blue. A bright full moon shines down onto a city of hippies, punks, and at least one skeleton.