In the Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange (based on the Anthony Burgess novel of the same name), protagonist Alex explains “The Korova Milk Bar sells Milk Plus: milk plus synthemesc, vellocet, or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This will sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence.” Fitting that the former Ruta Maya, now reborn as the Korova, features live music that could easily soundtrack a killing spree.
We first started hearing stories about the Korova more than a month ago, when they scooped up the metal shards left behind by the Rock Bottom Tattoo Bar (may it rest in the amplified chaos of which it was so fond). “It looks nothing like Ruta Maya,” was heard more than once. Having witnessed crunchy art fairs and poetry readings there, I found this somewhat hard to believe. So, on a recent Saturday night, friends/foxes/nightlife investigators Kelly O’Connor and Anastacia Uriegas joined me on a noisy scavenger hunt for evidence of the former coffeehouse.
After a quick spin around the place, we ordered a round of beers ($2 domestic pints until 11 p.m. on Saturdays were a nice surprise). Perplexed, we tried to decipher the words (or any word) in a song that was growled and shouted into the microphone. “I kinda wanna go up close and get a better look at these assholes,” Anastacia mused with a mischievous grin.
As we drank and tried to converse over the din of ultraviolence, we noticed that people kept disappearing down a stairwell. “Let’s see what’s going on down there,” Kelly said, suspicious. This was a different scene entirely — one that actually suited us better. The band Sohns was playing to an audience that seemed to be crowding into the corner of the room. Although not exactly our favorite musical genre (which, according to their MySpace page is “other”), the band’s performance had a suspenseful energy to it, and the entire scene was fun to watch (especially when the moshers combined forces to lift lead singer Alex Mendez off the ground so he could crowd-surf). “I wonder if they serve milk down here?” I joked to Kelly.
Feeling a bit like we’d crashed a punk-rock house party, we crossed the room to get another round from a small beer bar positioned under an arresting mural of none other than the spiked-milk-drinking Alex himself. This time, we opted for Dos XX ($3.50 apiece) while Anastacia took pictures of Mendez, who was now lying on the floor in a contorted position, still singing. Kelly and I sipped our beers at a cautious distance and marveled at how contained and well-behaved everything seemed. Just then, the heel of a Doc Marten came stomping down on my foot. Laughing, we slunk farther into the corner.
My description of the Korova got the attention of my friend Tracy Stephens, who, having participated in said crunchy art fairs, was interested in seeing the transformation. On this particular Friday night, things were surprisingly different. For starters, the DJ upstairs was spinning vintage New Order (the theme upstairs on Fridays is “Retrodivision 2.0”) while a few couples danced. I halfway expected to find a humid mosh pit in the basement, but instead two stylish girls were dancing politiely to a remix of Cassie’s “Me & U,” and balloons were tied to all the chairs. This time, we actually were crashing a party, but no one seemed to notice. — Bryan Rindfuss