Nightcrawling at Figaro’s: It makes you want to shout.

Figaro’s is a few car lengths out of North Dallas and into Addison, in a strip shopping center a few doors down from an office supply store, but it could be anywhere. Once inside, you smell and feel the dreary sameness of Everyclub. Most of the spirit comes from the bottles. Surface details in such places vary-a different color of cheap shag carpet with its permanent coat of ash, a more powerful sound system- but on the whole Figaro’s is interchangeable with the Brass Stirrup and the Cozy Kitten and the Back Nine and so many others.

The band is the Briefcase Blues Band, a usually enjoyable rip-off of a rip-off: the two singers dress, act, and sing uncannily like John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in their Blues Brothers act, which was itself a parody of two mythical Chicago bluesmen, Jake and Elwood Blues. Art imitates art.

And at the bar, the tall man and the blonde woman seem meant for each other, at least for tonight.

Earlier she had asked a man in a while shirt to dance, but he was with someone. So she did an oddly mechanical pirouette on her spiked heel and lurched toward the tall man. They danced and drank, danced and drank some more. The band was tuning up, and over the recorded music came painful shrieks of feedback. The couple sat at the bar, heads close, talking as the band launched into “Mercy, Mercy,” a warm-up tune to get the crowd’s attention before the pseudo-Blues Brothers make their entrance.

The tall man has his back to the door, the blonde facing him. Their heads are even closer now. He is blocking her view of the door, so she doesn’t see the burly man who suddenly brushes past the girl at the counter without paying the cover.

Someone must have called central casting for an Irate Husband. Hair slightly rumpled, tie at half-mast, sleeves rolled up. arms pumping, stride full of purpose, he knows where he is going. Five big steps take him to the bar, where he reaches over the tall man’s shoulder and squeezes the blonde’s face until it flattens for a moment like a flounder’s. His lips are moving with what are very likely obscenities. This is clear to an observer a few feet away despite the overriding music, now a brassy version of “Spooky.” The burly man is a silent movie of anger-lips stretched back baring teeth, veins popping on the neck-and there is the unignorable fact that he is still squeezing the blonde’s face. But no sounds can be heard over the band, which just at that moment snaps “Spooky” to a close and breaks open (no kidding), “Can’t Turn You Loose,” the ersatz Blues Brothers’ walk-on song.

DA-DA-DA-DA! DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA! The characters imitating the imitation-oh, let’s just call them Belushi and Aykroyd-stroll nonchalantly to the stage, nodding confidently to the applause of about fifteen people. Perhaps five patrons are becoming aware of the unfolding scene at the bar. As Belushi hands Aykroyd the key to a briefcase holding a harmonica and an Illinois license plate, the tall man, apparently realizing that violence has just walked in, tries to stand up. He can’t; the burly man’s arm is still across his shoulder. Quickly the three of them rearrange themselves at the bar and something like this seems to happen, though alternate versions of the events are certainly possible: the tall man wriggles off the barstool and makes a cramped turn to face the burly man, while the woman, her face popping free, tries to wedge herself between them. This sandwich falls apart as one or both of the men lunge to the side and all three collapse into a booth, flipping drinks and nachos skyward. Up on the stage, the guitarist stretches out the first notes of Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man.” Aykroyd uncoils into a dance that might be called the Tarantula on a Hot Skillet, as bouncers and managers descend on the writhing trio in the back. The burly man pushes them away and rushes wifeless from the room. Peace, for a moment.

The band, still unaware of any problem, starts an interminable version of “Stormy Monday.” The languorous rhythms draw two couples to sway metronomically on the postage-stamp dance floor. In the relative quiet of the blues standard, shouting is heard from the lobby. Some people rush out to the parking lot to see the blonde drag her husband to the car, put him in and drive away. Two patrons say they have never seen anything like this at Figaro’s.

Until their first break, the musicians have no inkling of this unscheduled floor show. They seem unruffled when they learn of the competition; they’re used to toughing it out on Wednesdays, the graveyard night for live bands.

Does a crowd of fifteen, half of them with backs turned to the stage, drain a band’s enthusiasm? “I just close my eyes and think of the thousands I’ve played for,” says Aykroyd. “It took us three days to loosen up the Rusty Pelican. I don’t know, it just seems like north of LBJ is the other side of the tracks. It’s tougher over here.”

As the second set opens, a few people chuckle when Belushi dedicates a tune to “anybody who came here hoping to get lucky and didn’t.” The song, “Cruising for Your Love,” is followed by “Expressway to Your Heart,” one of the newer old songs in the band’s repertoire. Waiting to wail out a fine harmonica break in “Snakeskin Strut,” Aykroyd holds the microphone as if it were some rare crustacean he’s been asked to examine.

By midnight, it’s time for the band’s theme song, “Shout.” The kickoff requires some audience participation, so two extremely drunk women, one in red tights, the other in a blouse from a Picasso nightmare, teeter in front of Belushi, who leads them through the opening “WEEEEEEEE-LLLLLLLLL” in three different keys before they lock onto the right notes. As the set ends, Belushi thanks Michelle and Debby (or Debi, or D’ebee) for their help, promising them a three-speed vibrator for their trouble.

The eight band members net $45 each for the night’s work. Counting time spent traveling and setting up equipment, that comes to about $11 an hour. An agent had promised them a percentage of the gate, but do you think enough people showed up to give them that “extra $400”?

As the real Belushi might have said, “Noooooooooooooooo.”


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