They're at the back of Dale Ann's bar on the cusp of the Ladd's Addition neighborhood, about to face off in a twisted version of one of the greatest game shows of all time: Family Feud.
This is BarFight!, brought to you by Portland's drinking zine, BarFly.
Essentially, it's an R-rated knockoff of Richard Dawson's prized program and a spinoff of BarFly's own, five-year-old Dysfunctional Family Feud that's held once a month at Dante's. Instead of the Joneses vs. the Martins of Dawson's feuds, Barfight's bar "families" are four-person teams made up of the employees of local bars. Daytime feuders attempt to "name an animal you might see in the zoo"; Barfight's teams try to name the best places to stash your drugs.
Tonight's the debut of this bar-on-bar madness, and only one of the scheduled teams bothers to show up. Seems the team at North Portland's Jockey Club couldn't get their calendars aligned to make it to Dale Ann's. That leaves the all-female Billy Ray's Neighborhood Dive crew without a foe--and turns this group of four women into automatic favorites with the audience. Once a mishmash team is assembled from the crowd, the game begins.
The competition is fierce but fun, and the ragtag team (a mix of Greek Cusina's and Vic's Tavern's finest) is an animated group. Often, the moments between rounds provide as much comic relief as the actual battling. One guy rebuts a heckler's taunt with this sparkling one-liner: "Don't playa hate. Congratulate!" One of the ladies offers the most scathing remark to her own hater, telling him she'll forever serve him pints of foamy beer. Ouch!
Luckily, our hostess, BarFly head honcho Jen Lane, is aware that these drinkers are a fidgety bunch, and she provides ample beer breaks and super-speedy quadruple and quintuple bonus rounds, where the normal 100 points a team can score is upped to 400 or 500. It's in these rounds that the lagging team can make a final push for glory or the leading team can cement their victory. In the end, it's not clear if the game lays to rest vicious rivalries or creates new ones--but at least everyone's having a grand time.
Somewhere, Richard Dawson is rolling in his grave. I bet he's also laughing.
Dale Ann's, 1204 SE Clay St., 235-7831. 9 pm Tuesdays. 21+.