Brian, Matt and I are already good and stumbly by the time we fall into the dim red glow of Herb's (2057 Larimer Street) via the back patio door. We've just spent the last four hours at Coors Field pawning our future firstborns to get this way, and although seventeen different bottles and six different taps taunt us, we all agree that cheap beers are in order. Three PBR cans, two bucks each.
As the bartender digs into the cooler and we help ourselves to the generic snack mix in plastic bowls on the bar, a beefy guy with graying hair and protective straps on his sunglasses expresses mock frustration at his inability to get the Internet jukebox to play. "You got any volume back there?" he quips.
"I got volume," the bartender shoots back with faux contempt, "but it won't work until you actually press play, dog." Then, with cloying flattery: "Love you, Brian. Have my babies."
Within seconds, Stevie Ray Vaughan is bellowing through the speakers. "You call this volume?" Jukebox Brian retorts, but the bartender doesn't hear him — he's busy tallying beers on a Post-It note stuck to the mirror behind the cash register.
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With the exception of the jukebox — which, throughout the course of the night, plays everything from Alicia Keys to Tom Jones to Billy Idol to Nirvana to Christina Aguilera to OutKast — the place is pretty quiet. Still, there aren't three vacant stools, so we grab a tiny table in front of the stage area, just off the dance floor. Directly above, a disco ball spins without incandescent purpose, since no light points at it. To our right, a group of six or seven girls take an AC/DC song as their cue to pace around like ducks and bang their elbows in ironic gestures of amusement. We sip (and spill) our PBRs and take stock of how much this section of Herb's feels like a low-rent, ramshackle strip joint without poles: The tables are small and sticky, and the metal-framed chairs are padded, which always helps dancers maneuver around dudes and straddle them with ease. Also, the entire back wall is one large mirror, which has an obvious effect. It probably doesn't help that as a Too $hort song comes on, a spectacle breaks out on the stage. One girl, a brunette wearing a Rockies hat, grabs a long orange extension cord, wraps it around her waist and swings it seductively. Off to the side, another girl sits in a chair while a third girl thrusts her crotch back and forth within licking distance of the seated girl's face. All three are fully clothed, all hysterical with laughter.
Brian spills his beer for the second time, so we grab new ones and head out back.
The patio — all white resin chairs, black metal tables and red plastic ashtrays — is empty, and for good reason. I get no more than three or four sips into my pint of Boddingtons ($3 You Call It on Monday, we discover) before the sky starts spewing big, stupid raindrops on us, despite any discernible presence of rain clouds. Brian and Matt scurry inside, but I have three-quarters of a smoke left, so I hover by the closed-down service window and try to stay dry. Eventually, extension-cord girl wanders out with some skinny guy in a Pirates hat and obviously Sharpied forearm tattoos. He asks her where she lives, and she proceeds to tell a story about how, before she moved here from Wisconsin, someone advised her to always claim that she had a place in Washington Park if people asked. "The funny thing is," she (hiccup) says (hiccup), "I actually do live in Wash Park now! Isn't that" (hiccup) "funny?" Just when I think I can't possibly handle another hiccup, the bartender peeks his head out the back door, points a remote control toward the sky and commands a green automatic awning to unroll itself and save us from drowning. When all three of us cheer, he responds with equally puckish and foursquare bravado, saying, "Shit, y'all, that's just how I roll!"
Back inside, Brian, Matt and I spend a buck each and do battle, Silver Strike 2009 style. We bet rounds of drinks on single frames, regularly pausing the game because one or another of us is helping the bartender and a few strangers play nudie Photo Hunt on the touch screen console. In the end, I lose terribly — my score an embarrassing 108, due mostly to my inability to accurately count pins with both eyes open. After closing out our tabs, we stumble for the diamond-plated bathroom and take turns at the sole urinal while an embarrassed defecator struggles to keep the lockless stall door closed with his hand, then finally stumble out the back door whence we came.