There is no irony at Bentley's Saloon. This is kind of hard to process, because the crowd at the bar is totally incoherent: there are, primarily, biker dudes and chicks, along with cowboy types, hard-drinking college kids, senior citizens, the odd hippie with dreadlocks, and a guy wearing a T-shirt that says "The Man. The Legend." with arrows pointing up and down (you can guess which ways). The parking lot is full (there is a parking lot!), and there is a hot-dog vendor in it (serving homemade, $4.50 pulled-pork sandwiches ... point, Arundel). There are 200 people in this bar. At 10 pm, a busty girl hops up on a table (straddling a ceramic bull) and shoots Bentley's T-shirts out at the crowd. Between karaoke songs, a deeply vulgar alt-rock song about fellatio starts playing, and the dance floor fills. A couple of newly-minted adults grind to it intensely, the guy earnestly mouthing the words into the girl's ear. To repeat: There is no irony at Bentley's Saloon.
There is, though, a pretty amazing karaoke DJ every Thursday, and a really good crop of singers. As you might expect, the song selections make for some jarring transitions — like, "Sweet Home Alabama" to "You Are So Beautiful" (which was performed with painful loneliness by a sad old man, who promptly put on his trenchcoat and left after the song — I assume he was singing to his dead wife; it was really sad) to Madonna to FM country songs — but many of the singers were fantastic. If you were outside (on Bentley's outdoor patio, which lines half the large building), you'd swear you were listening to the radio. As for Annie, she's got the image of a Vietnam hippie turned biker chick — long locks and bangs, sparkly belt — and she is a workhorse, playing every song through CDs (no laptop in sight), dancing with the regulars, and cheering everyone on with equal enthusiasm. It's hard not to view going to Bentley's as a sociological experiment, but it's just enough genuine fun that you'll find yourself itching to go back.
: New England Music News
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