You probably wouldn't know it unless you were a bar regular or an especially nosy individual, but Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club has a poolroom. Just past the end of the bar, to the left, is a door that's always shut, and inside is a rectangular-shaped room with a pool table and some old chairs, stools and tables. It's like an abandoned Elks lodge in there.
On Wednesday afternoons, Amy Farrand hauls the chairs and tables over to the stage area for Weirdo Wednesday Supper Club, the weekly variety show that she's been hosting at Davey's since April 2010. She drapes cloths over the tables and black nylon slips over the backs of the chairs, and rigs curtains up on the stage. When the crowd arrives at 7 p.m., the votives on the tables and the dim stage lights set a relatively elegant mood, at least for Davey's.
Farrand has close-cropped brown hair, which she parts on the right and grows long on the front left side. She has to brush it over her ear every couple of minutes. She has a very direct manner, verging on gruff.
On a recent Wednesday, Farrand was setting up and talking about the genesis of her show. "I've been playing in bands in this town since I was 15 years old," she said, flapping open a tablecloth. "I've been fortunate to know a lot of the most talented people in town. I have access to those people. I know a lot of performers. I know singers, tarot card readers, dancers. And I was given a night and told, 'Do whatever you want with it.' So I thought, Why not do a variety show? Get a bunch of weird people in the same place."
Davey's owner, Michelle Markowitz, poked her head in, a little flustered. There was a problem with the walk-in downstairs. "Can you cover me a few minutes, Amy?" she asked. Farrand kind of grunted. "OK," she said, and walked back behind the bar. There were only two patrons inside. One of them, a bearded, tattooed guy in his mid-20s, asked Farrand for an ashtray. She glanced behind her at the liquor bottles for about a second, and then told him to go smoke his cigarette outside.
Earlier that day, Farrand had appeared on Mark Manning's KKFI 90.1 radio show, Wednesday MidDay Medley, to discuss American Catastrophe, one of the many local music projects with which she is involved. I asked her how she liked going on the air and mentioned that I was looking forward to the band's show on Friday. She frowned and looked at me sideways. "It's on Saturday," she said. "Did you not listen to the show?" I told her that I was at work during the broadcast.
"You know, you can stream it over the Internet," she said. I started to explain that I find the radio distracting when I'm trying to write, but she cut me off and continued talking about that week's show.
As host, Farrand adopts a grumpy, sarcastic demeanor, but she also seems pretty happy to be there. She's clearly proud of the ragtag group that attends Weirdo Wednesday.
"I like that this show doesn't attract a hipster crowd," she continued. "It's just this great mix of interesting characters who all come out, have beers, watch silly stuff. I don't have any rules about what happens here. There are laws, of course. Put a sock on it. Please don't pee on the stage. But otherwise, I don't like to stifle anybody or censor anybody."
There's always a music act at Weirdo Wednesday, but jugglers, tap dancers, puppeteers, comedians and burlesque dancers regularly come through and perform. The variety and informality of the show has the slight whiff of an open mic, but Farrand always books in advance. "You leave your ass hanging in the wind with an open mic," she told me. "I've worked 'em. They're hellish."