I was standing about 20 feet from the entrance when he walked in. The guy looked and smelled like he was on some sort of Olympic dumpster-diving team, a cross between a construction worker and a beach bum dude obviously wasn't here for the live music. That's not why local yokels wander into a bar like Duck Soup (3809 Powerline Rd., Oakland Park), especially when they're carrying a cooler.
"Hey, what's in the cooler?" the door guy asked the dirty Olympian. "You don't have beer in there, do you?"
Turns out, all the guy had was a turkey sandwich. But even if he'd been smuggling a couple of Heinekens, it wouldn't have mattered; he left after about three minutes. Guess he didn't care for the band. But if that was the case, he was in the minority. Onstage was Zombies! Organize!!, a Boca Raton-based trio who were popping their live stage cherry. And they chose the July 15 gig at Duck Soup for their first show. I was familiar with all the other acts singer/songwriters Brent Indeed and Katie Foley, Timb (solo and with the Band of Erics), and the Freakin Hott. I was more than curious to see what this group of zombie organizers would do.
But first, I had to find out whether my memory was hazy or if Duck Soup had been renovated in the several months since I last stopped by. I didn't remember the stage having all those fancy lights; hell, there hadn't even been flooring, just bare concrete. The only things I remembered for certain were the pool tables in the back and the metal cage in the front corner. Even the bar had been refurbished. The biggest difference, though, was the crowd; Duck Soup was filled to the brim for this show. And get this: The regulars were cool. They welcomed the bands and the people who watched them. Yeah, most of 'em were a bit tanked, but it was all in a spirit of good times there wasn't the ugliness that often results from mixing barflies with bands. And that's just what Duck Soup's current owner, Jeff Vela, was hoping for when he took over the aging bar last year.
"The 'Pirates of the Caribbean' used to hang out here until ten months ago," he said, speaking of the real dregs-of-society types who used to frequent the joint. "But we ran them out."
In their place, Vela has invited a younger, livelier, cleaner crowd. People who like music. People who make music. On most Saturdays, DJ Godfather spins retro '80s-type stuff and the giant metal cage is filled with dancing girls. And when Vela books bands, you can bet they won't be the kind that churn out hourlong sets of classic-rock covers.
"I try to find music that's diverse but new," he said. "Classic rock has been popular in this area for 30 years. It's time to do something different."
But Vela is quick to point out that while Duck Soup is contemporary and down-to-earth, it's far from the sort of place you'd find frat boys scamming on hoochie mamas.
"It's not a trendy bar it's a today bar," Vela said. "It's not a martini bar, though we have 'em. And nobody sells more pussy than we do."
"Let me explain," Vela continued. "Pussy shots are our bomb shots. We've got perky pussy, hot and steamy pussy, kinky pussy, virgin pussy, warm and wet pussy... And then there's sloppy seconds."
Dare I ask? I did.
"That's when the drink girl takes a shot, spits it into a glass of Red Bull, and you drink it," Vela said. "Want one?"
At that point, my taste for Red Bull all but vanished, and I was looking for a way out. Fortunately, Zombies! Organize!! were about to start their set, so I had a convenient excuse to pardon myself.
There weren't any zombies, but there was some damned interesting tuneage an accordion-driven mix of glitch pop, electronica, and hardcore rap. I'm not making that up. It could have been terrible, but it worked. And the squeaky, baby-girl vocals of Mary "Magdalen" Romero completed the Zombies' organization. Any girl who can sing like that and pull off covers of the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy" and Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" deserves serious props. However, by the end of the band's set, the bar was rapidly becoming a sweatbox. The middle-aged woman at the table next to me had the same concern. But she had a more creative way of putting it.
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"If I had balls," she said, "they'd be sweating right now."
According to Vela, the A/C had crapped out earlier that day and the repairman didn't feel like working on a Saturday. That bastard. It was damned uncomfortable, to the point where I couldn't focus on the music. My mind wandered, and so did my eyes. My gaze fell upon the scrolling LED sign above the door that read, "Pull my finger and I'll show you where the monkey bit me." I figured that was my cue to take a seat. I joined Vela at his booth, hoping he had given up on ordering me sloppy seconds.
"What makes this place is the people," Vela said, gesturing toward the crowd. "We want people who are fun people who are nice. If you're not nice, you can't stay."
I couldn't help thinking of the beloved Seinfeld character, the Soup Nazi "No Duck Soup for you!" Of course, I had to agree with Vela's vision of a meathead-free bar. If he were to let any nut with a cooler waltz in, there'd be all sorts of pirates hanging around. After all, the bar's called Duck Soup, not Turkey Sandwich.