At the California Hotel just off Nakheel street, there were, on the last count, four so called night clubs, at least three bars and at least two restaurants. None of these start up til at least 830, save for the Indian bar which is open all day. I headed to the latter round about 7 on the basis that it was Thursday night and the weekend somehow should start here. Killed more than 90 very slow minutes drinking Heineken draft waiting for the basement nightclub to kick in, watching three screens, eating tasteless popcorn and trying to read Gulf News in the dim, seedy light of a bar that, were it not just inside the entrance of a three star and policed by the manager every ten minutes, would very nearly be cool. I have lived in this place two months and tonite is the first time I have very checked out any of the music venues that actually the hotel very popular over the weekend. Trouble is, visiting these places at 8 or 9 o clock in the evening means that you’re catching the performers in rehearsal mode. I stumbled into the Omar Khyam night club, the Pakistani venue in the basement, and found myself in an audience of six , of whom four were staff. Around a discrete corner an African woman nursed a beer while the tubby male singer seemed to be singing at me while heavilly made up young girls in brightly coloured saris and head scarves for the most part did desultory moves while occasionally one would step up and make a reasonably serious effort at dancing, throwing off the head covering and concentrating on shaking her very long locks around like an extra from a hippie dance troupe. At one point the oldest, plainest, female grabbed the mic and matched the male singer for commitment, and more or less for volume. This was essentially for these singers, dancers and musicians a tepid warm up. Overly amplified, were two tabla players, very average in competence, but the sound of their instruments was exciting to hear in additon to the commonplace south Asian keyboard heavy music.
Heading for a food break on several pints is always a disappointment and hotel food, especially in this place, is never good as I, surely, should know. What I consumed was at least a means to fill a gap, before checking out the other venues in this hotel. Heading back down to the bowels of the building I had a choice of the Indian nightclub or the Bollywood dancers revue. Opted for the latter and soon wished I had had the detachment that allowed several other punters to check out the scene and promptly leave. The male musicians in this place did nothing except play tapes and the girls danced, or rather moved occasionally in a stiff unenthused fashion to whatever was played. At this point, I was reminded of Bowie’s "Queen Bitch", knew for sure that “I could do better than that”, and texted my totally sober wife to inform her of this revelation. I then reminded myself that I do not have pert breasts and that is what the young men in this audience are paying AED20 a can of Heineken for, and seemingly giving the maitre d one dirham coins to lavish on the solo dancer for. I soon made my excuses and headed back to my room for a tap water, and a blast of southern rock on my MP3 player c/o Neil Young, before writing these observations in a less than able state. These places needs checking out after midnight, then it fills out, and then I suspect the musicians have to play, regardless of whether the girls can dance….