So there's Fast Eddie, the balding barfly. He always tries to sell his blood for money. He drinks Honey Brown. He has track marks up and down his arms. He has a nervous twitch. He has an itch he just can't scratch. He performs at the open-mic night down the street, and he always sits at the end of the bar. Then there's Mary, who, quite contrary to popular belief, has never been with Eddie, or Freddy, in the back of her Chevy. She guards the jukebox and plays the Jam. She drinks Blackbeard Ale in flipflops bought at a yard sale. Then there's Bobby and Jenny, with their skinny jeans and thrift-store shirts, talking to Shelly and Tracy, with their high-pitched laughs and vintage skirts. They're all drinking Tsingtao and mussing their 'dos, tapping their toes and talking about the Who. Another beer? Make that two. These are the various characters who inhabit the tables, barstools, and dark corners of the Billabong Pub, an unassuming joint nestled in a strip mall behind a strip club, next door to a "massage parlor" and a Mattress Giant. Sound intimate? It is: The lighting is low (and most of the time, this is a good thing), and the crowd is forced to stand eye-to-eye with the band, as there's no stage. And if you happen to be lingering after the pub's 2 a.m. closing time on Fridays and Saturdays, you can spot Indie Rock Rob chatting up Carl the Car Salesman with the lazy eye, over a delicious flute of Lambic Frambois ($5 per glass, $10 per bottle). Readers' Choice: Culture Room
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