A woman cradling a little black dog like a baby, its head on her shoulder, danced alone at Ristau's Roadhouse (2035 South Sheridan Boulevard), while another woman, a middle-aged blonde, sang a karaoke version of Patsy Cline's "Crazy." (Yeah, I know that Willie Nelson wrote the song early in his career, but Cline made that tune her own.) The more I watched the gal dance, the more surreal it seemed — and the more I felt sorry for that dog. But it was probably better off on the dance floor than in the cab of her pickup truck, which is where it had been when we pulled into Ristau's parking lot on Saturday night.
Earlier that evening, a lanky guy named Chuck had sat down on a stool in front of the huge American flag that hangs behind the stage and offered a version of Hank Williams's "Your Cheatin' Heart" that dipped almost a good octave below Hank's original. Dude had some seriously deep pipes, but it was hard to hear him since he held the mike so far from his mouth.
After listening to the same four people sing a few rounds of karaoke (including Chuck offering Kinky Friedman's "Asshole From El Paso," a parody of Merle Haggard's "Oakie From Muskogee"), I got up the courage to do "Folsom Prison Blues." While I was singing, four gals pushed the tables back from the stage and started dancing. None of them had a dog as a partner, but it was still cool. I don't see myself as much of a singer, though I can nail Cash pretty well sometimes. But Mick Jagger, not so much — as I found out when I switched to "Honky Tonk Women."
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Between songs, the bartender was telling us about the pros and cons of the high-tech liquor-dispenser system at Ristau's, which keeps track of shots and tap beer poured and feeds the info into the touch-screen point-of-sale interface. She said the system was good when it worked but hell when it didn't. It seemed pretty high-tech for a neighborhood joint, especially since I haven't seen anything similar in upscale LoDo spots.
The crowd had already included a few bikers when we'd arrived, and around 11 p.m., right before the gal started dancing with her dog, a group of about ten more bikers arrived. Then a half-dozen women, including the dog-holder, jumped up to sing "Hotel California" over two mikes. Crazy! While Ristau's may not be this lively every Saturday karaoke night, or even on live-music Fridays, it was certainly a fun place this night.
Club scout: The Summit, a longtime steakhouse at 2700 South Havana Street in Aurora, has redecorated and renamed the bar portion of its space. The Cabin Bar will celebrate its grand opening on Thursday, September 17, kicking off the evening with live music from Steve Thomas on the patio at 5 p.m., followed by the Informants at 8. There will be drink specials all night, as well as a free appetizer bar, prizes and giveaways. After the party, the Cabin will continue bringing in live bands on Fridays and Saturdays. Down in LoDo, another redecorated and renamed bar, the Oak Tavern (it took over for Monarck at 1416 Market Street), just kicked off weekly football-watching parties on Sundays, when it offers $3 wells and Coors Light drafts, $2 PBRs and $4 house Bloody Marys and mimosas.
On Friday, September 18, City Hall (1144 Broadway) will host the Colorado Firefighter Calendar Debut Event, with proceeds benefiting the Children's Hospital Burn Center. VIP tickets, which are $50 in advance and $75 at the door, include a private party and interactive photo shoot with the firefighters, two drink tickets, hors d'oeuvres, a gift bag and a 2010 calendar. General admission is $25 in advance, $30 at the door; doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the event starts at 8.