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."
Last week's show opened with a performance by a 67-year-old man who goes by the stage name Diamond Dan. "This guy is pure balls," Farrand said, by way of introduction. About 20 people were assembled at tables near the stage, some of them munching on the white-wine-poached chicken prepared by the Supper Club's regular caterer, Heather Hands. In the back, past the restrooms, a masseuse stood in relative darkness beside a massage chair, ready to rub down any interested parties.
Diamond Dan, a "boylesque" performer, took the stage wearing spurs, pants with thick vertical stripes, a brown vest, a cowboy hat and a fake gun. He held a pathetically tiny stick horse between his legs and shuffled across the stage as though he were riding it. "Long Tall Texan" played over the PA, and he danced gingerly, as senior citizens tend to do. He struggled a bit as he removed his suspenders, but he eventually pried them off. In time, Diamond Dan was wearing just shiny, silver boxer briefs, white socks and the cowboy hat. He paused and stood proudly at center stage, his hands on his hips. For the big finish, he stripped off the boxer briefs to reveal a red thong. He thrusted about a little bit, and then the sound guy goofed and cut the song a couple of seconds early. A smattering of laughs and applause.
There'd been a cancellation, so Farrand played a few solo acoustic sets of blues-inflected tunes. An impressively powerful guitar player, she hammered at the strings without sacrificing precision, and her fingers moved nimbly along the fretboard like an accountant doing 10-key. Once, she berated one of the regulars for a full 30 seconds for requesting "Freebird."
"I seriously can't fucking believe people are still fucking shouting that out," she said. Later, Farrand asked a question of Bill Sundahl (whose band, the Columns, played a set of jazzy blues-rock songs), then told him to get his own show if he wanted to talk anymore.
Cheri Woods, who, like Farrand, is a Rural Grit regular, got up and performed some half spoken-word, half a-cappella songs. Her stories meandered melodically and then returned to refrains, and it was sometimes hard to determine where the banter stopped and the performance started. But it was frequently quite lovely.
Diamond Dan re-emerged wearing a pinstriped suit. This would be a more formal striptease. A classy "broad" sat at a table on the stage, and he pantomimed the lyrics to Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man," to woo her. This time, he went from boxers to a purple fishnet sheath, through which a black thong was visible. When the fishnet came off, we were treated to an especially ample amount of skin along the sides of Diamond Dan's crotch. It was the type of skin you don't expect to see at a burlesque show, or even at most strip clubs. It was legal but, man, just barely. The music stopped, and he reached down and gathered up his pile of clothes, his bare ass partly facing the crowd. Farrand walked up and grabbed the mic.
"Diamond Dan," she said, and there wasn't much else to do but nod and clap and be glad to have seen something so deeply weird on a weeknight.