Televisions in bars can be a mixed blessing. A giant-screen TV in a sports bar provides the entertainment (at least until the big game is over). But in smaller lounges and dive bars TVs are a major distraction whether they're beaming inane MTV programming, reality shows or more sports. As the night wears on, socialites inevitably abandon their conversations and turn toward the boob tube for entertainment. Those who understand the dangers of this cultural plague insist on keeping their backs to the damned machines. But at the Psychic Drive-Inat Fallout Lounge, it's all about keeping your eyes glued to the screen for the most fascinating, trendy, bizarre and humorous mix of video programming in Dallas courtesy of DJ Nitwit (Joseph Howington).
The Psychic Drive-In consists mostly of music videos, but few of them have been aired since MTV2 broadcast its entire archive alphabetically a few years ago. Au courant acts (the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Faint) blend seamlessly into clips of aging hipsters (Nick Cave, long-forgotten Kate Bush), but then Nitwit makes the crowd gag and guffaw with cheesy metal (Judas Priest, Mötley Crüe), extra-cheesy cheese (Hall & Oates, Journey) and even old big band-era jazz clips and classic country. He mixes it with (or wraps it up in) obscure experimental film footage (white-trash exploitation, vaguely pornographic French art films) not really suggesting any sort of context but providing a home base in which to return. He's pretty good with requests, too, but you may have to hang out till closing time to catch them. Those who haven't had too much to drink might even discern a pattern of themes in videos and realize that there are brains behind the button-pushing.
To call it "eclectic" is almost insulting, because it's downright "archival" as he pulls out rare TV appearances and vintage concert footage. (A friend of mine nearly fell off his bar stool a few weeks ago when Howington played David Bowie's performance of "The Man Who Sold the World" with Klaus Nomi from a 1979 episode of Saturday Night Live.) "It's all about pop culture," Howington says. "That's why I don't stop with the '70s or '80s, because there's so much great stuff that goes back further than that." He spends at least 20 hours a week transferring old VHS to DVD and prepping for his four hours of DJ/VJ madness. Howington has been collecting videos for 15 years and these days gets most of his old footage from Internet trading circles, but his day job at Half Price Books hasn't hurt his knack for finding old out-of-print gems, either.
As for the Saturday-night crowd, Fallout is the true melting pot for Exposition Park denizens. Scenesters from the Meridian Room and the punk kids from Bar of Soap around the corner as well as the gay boys from Minc and the locals at the New Amsterdam Coffee House eventually swing through Fallout at some point during the evening, and after catching some visual curiosity, some of them even decide to stay for the rest of the night. Plus there's usually some gallery opening in the neighborhood bringing out the art crowd. Tired of the pretentious chatter flying through the air at whatever questionable "art" show you're attending? Then check out the real video art at the Psychic Drive-In. Lines for the bathroom too long at Minc? Head over to Fallout where there's little or no wait. Sure, you have to buy a drink, but Fallout's Psychic Drive-In is monumentally more entertaining than Minc's stand-and-model crowd any Saturday night.