Tue. May 28th, 2024

“Oh, um, a dirty Shirley,” I say self-assured; dreaming of the overwhelmingly sweet taste of grenadine and maraschino cherries. “I’m sorry, miss, but we only serve ‘grown-up’ drinks here,” the bartender replies. I give him a hesitant guess, “Whiskey sour?” He smiles, “That I can do. Sorry we don’t have grenadine.” My dad is laughing and telling him I watch too much Mad Men. I take a look at my surroundings, and realize I’ve made a mistake; this is no place for grenadine. Various types of whiskey line the back wall of the bar and the whole place is covered in dark red paint and stained wood. It has the look of a saloon from an old western, but more up-to-date, with a lot less dirt and dust, and the bartender looks more like a tattoo artist than a cowboy. He embodies the venue so well and is exactly what I would expect; with a full beard, thick-rimmed glasses, and that confident wit; an effortless badass.
The Note was opened about five years ago by Bam Margera. If you’ve heard of, been to, live near, or have any idea where West Chester Pennsylvania is, you’ve probably heard of Bam Margera. He is renowned for being a wild “jackass” and is well-known from different reality shows on MTV that would follow around a group of rambunctious daredevils as they performed stunts that would leave them injured, vomiting, or with a few less brain cells. To say the very least, I’m surprised he opened a fully functioning business, and not only that, but it’s a concert venue that is still in pristine condition.
The Johnny Cash impersonator greets the audience in a low voice and goes into howling out “Cocaine Blues.” My smile is taking over my face; partly because I love the song, but mostly because this drink was cheap and worth every penny. I’m sitting at the bar inspecting the place and enjoying the show. It’s exactly what I pictured a concert venue in West Chester to be; in a way, it captures the essence of the town. It’s smaller and dark; it feels cozy, almost like I’m watching play in someone’s basement with higher ceilings. Red lights cover the stage, making it feel more like a small local bar rather than a concert venue. A little off the beaten path, it is one block away from the main street of West Chester; away from all the boutiques, stores, bars, and restaurants. You can find it on the corner of Market and South Matlack Streets, right next door to a vacant lot filled with an obscene amount of construction and Blaze Salon.
It’s a Wednesday and a Johnny Cash tribute band is playing in a college town; it’s a slow night. The bartender is telling me that the place was packed the night before for some guy and his laptop. “It really depends on who’s playing, nights we’re opened it’s usually overflowing. You decided to come on weird night; it’s a Johnny Cash tribute band in West Chester.” I’m laughing as he goes on to explain that they’re a Live Nation venue which helps them to book a lot more artists. It also allows them the opportunity to book up-and-coming artists ahead of time, “Within the past couple years, we’ve had plenty of up-and-coming artists from Cody Simpson to Wiz Khalifa.”
“Yeah, it was really packed the last time I was here,” I tell him about the first time I had come to show. It was within the first few weeks of them opening, and you could still smell the fresh coat of that dark red paint. Shwayze was performing, a pop-reggae-rapper who was catchy, with one or two hits, but after seeing him live once, you’d have your fill. It was really fun and tickets had only been $12, which is perfect for anyone, but was even better for me, a 17-year-old girl whose priorities rested in her wardrobe. It was also a great purchase because he was all over the radio and his videos were being over-played by MTV. I remember being really excited to go since it was one of their first all-ages show; they typically permit only individuals who are 18 or 21 to attend most performances. The only bad part about the experience was that we were all in high school and thought it was cool to cheer on Shwayze while he guzzled down a bottle of Patron. It wasn’t, he was too inebriated to carry out his full performance. My dad’s laughing, “Oh jeez,” and I’m telling the bartender, “Other than that though, it was a good time, I remember the staff was pretty cool; they kept things under control and were courteous even though we were young.” The bartender can’t hold back his laughter, “I think I remember that.”
The newer, less handsome version of Johnny Cash is finishing off his Corona and telling us this is his last song. I drink the rest of my whiskey sour and head to the bathroom. When I get there, I’m dumbfounded; it smells like bathroom cleaner and soap, not puke. The walls are covered in that deep red and there are carefully placed stickers all over the paper towel dispenser, toilet, and edges of the mirror. There are only two little patches of writings on the wall; one reading “Sorry for the graffiti, but, I was here.” Even if it was a slow night, this was a concert venue’s bathroom?
By the time I get out, the new Johnny Cash is wrapping up and begins saying his goodbyes. I find my dad and we head for the door. I’m telling him as we walk to the car about my excitement to bring my friends here when they come to visit next weekend. My breath tastes thick with the taste of lemons and whiskey as I turn to my dad and state, “We’re pretty lucky to live in West Chester.”
Emily Durkin is a fourth-year student. She can be reached at ED797328@wcupa.edu. 

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