Wax Volcanic - So tell me Charli, what is your ideal fantasy travel destination?
Charli XCX - My dream situation-thing is being in my favourite dive bar in New York, called 169 Bar, there’s like fake palm trees and neon lights and stuff everywhere. But I would like to have a king-sized bed in there which is just covered in pepperoni pizza and I can just lay in it and there’s champagne fountains which can pour in swirly straws into my mouth and I can eat slices of pizza and drink champagne all day while playing a Barbie videogame… (audio proof)
Charlie Hansen waited. As he did every Sunday. For Dane, who raked his limbs into a ball and pressed himself against the building until opening time, possessing a souring coconut and white rum bouquet and a thirst for Mexican beer. For Maude, with two dogs and holding involved conversation with three—Pimms and lemonade irrespective of the hour or season. And for Dashielle and Loni—straight Whisky (him) and Bud Light (her) who each knotted the fingers of one hand together while they read scavenged copies of literary journals, that they pushed flat against the table with their free hand. On the street the A-frame sign, usually filled with the words ‘HAPPY HOUR’ (and left out all night) was replaced with the words: ‘CLOSED FOR PRIVATE FUNCTION.’
But the door of the 169 Soul Jazz Oyster bar was a yawning rectangle of white space, wedged open and spilling bleached light over the painstaking clutter of the bar’s insides. Raw brick walls lit and dressed like an empty stage. Or almost empty. The shadow of someone young walked in below the glowing red ‘EXIT’ sign. The walk was stilted, semi-sure, surveying and confirming. Not propelled by liquid purpose. She approached the bar.
‘Hi. It’s a private function today…’
‘Yeah, I’m Miranda from Auteur Event Production. We spoke on the phone. I made the booking…’
‘Oh sure, sure. Take a seat.’
‘Thanks. Are you Charlie?’
‘Yep. I am him. He is me.’
‘I thought you got hit by a limousine? You look okay to me.’
Charlie lifted his small tumbler of cola and ice from behind the bar, raising his mouth into a reluctant smile.
‘Well I still drink like I got hit by a limousine.’
Charlie waited and Miranda laughed dutifully, using just her lips and the air in her nose. Charlie put down his glass without drinking from it.
‘So insurance money got you this place?’
‘Oh yeah. Took a dive, but got a dive bar in return.’
Charlie waited again, but Miranda’s eyes were roaming the walls.
‘So is it a show you want to put on here or…’
‘Sort of. Not really.’
‘Oh right, right, so you want the stage for DJs then, or you have some bands you wanna put on?’
‘Ah no, we’re going to put the bed on the stage’
Miranda was riffling through sheaves of paper in a small leather shoulder bag. She stopped.
‘The bed. Did you get the attachment I sent through with the email?’
Miranda reached into her satchel and plucked out a sheet of paper.
‘So there’s the bed, the pepperoni pizza, around 20 boxes, two DJs, around 400 champagne glasses…’
“Oh we’re out of champagne, but we have a bunch of white wine…’
‘White wine should be fine. Then there’s the gaming console and game. And the 200 guests. That last one’s just a guess. It could be more.
Charlie nodded slightly, pinning his bottom lip with his top teeth.
‘Miranda? Miranda. Look…shows have changed…I mean I like it but…I mean…and I was in the punk scene, band called the Normals. Before your time. In ‘78 when the Ramones asked us to play, we did. When Iggy asked us to play, we did. Patti Smith—same. And punk rock was the stranger end of the spectrum. Believe me. This?’
‘I know this is weird. We’re at the end of the tour, this is Charli’s favourite bar. It’s a kind of surprise for her, a party.’
‘No it’s C-H-A-R-L-I. Charli XCX, an old screen name from… doesn’t matter. She’s a songwriter, pop…sort of.’
Miranda wiped her thumb over her phone until a picture of Charli appeared, her hair up, wrapped in black mesh, vinyl and studded leather.
Charlie nodded some more.
‘She looks people I used to play to in the 80s.’
This time Miranda started to nod.
‘The Vels, I know. ‘Heiroglyphics’, ‘Look My Way’…
‘You know The Vels? That’s…really?’
‘80s synth pop, what’s not to like?’
Charlie kept smiling at her for a moment before letting his eyes drop back to her sheet of paper.
‘So where are you finding all this stuff?’
‘It’s all on hire. Except for the pizzas and the game consol.’
‘Where’s the pizza coming from?’
‘Nonna’s over on Clinton street. Little bit more expensive but they do square slices, so we can cover the bed right to the edges.’
‘So what does kind of music does she make…Charli…’
You’d like it Charlie. It kind of sounds like punk rock sprawling into synth pop…then getting dragged under a luxury car.’
Words by Paul C. Cumming aka Wax Volcanic
Postcard illustration by Kelly Walsh