College students love bars, as well as different types of music. So, bars that host live music tend to draw the college crowd to the city of Bethlehem, PA in the same way. I had the chance to experience three different locales: a dive bar called The Funhouse, a re-creation of the prohibition age speakeasy called The Bookstore Speakeasy, and the contemporary Sands Bethlehem Events Center.
Barely anyone was seen on the concrete sidewalk where The Funhouse stood. The brightly colored wooden sign was tacked above the door as I opened it. Smoke from the cigarettes lit by boys playing pool filled the bar, names etched on the ceiling, old license plates that said “TASTN IT” and a huge stoplight were nailed to the wall.
The open mic night brought in a great crowd to hear locals of the city of Bethlehem perform. A woman named Kai held her dream catcher clad acoustic guitar and began singing covers of popular songs. A couple beers later, she asked the crowd to call out any word and she would create a song. Though badly attempted, it was hilarious to encounter.
To end the night, a hippie with long hair pulled back into a bun took his electric guitar and began creating his own synthetic music. Sounds a guitar should not make came out of his guitar as he stepped on a pedal that kick-started the electronic drums and piano sounds.
The vibe of the Funhouse was relaxed and easy going. The feel of the place was authentic and relaxed, causing newcomers to want to go back.
A week later, I glanced through a ragged, almost fallen apart wooden archway. Inside showed a battery operated candlelit podium, books stacked everywhere, and an ink black door with the words “The Bookstore” written in white. Passing through the door was like walking into Narnia through the wardrobe. With one glance around, I was literally transported into the “Roaring 20’s.”
To sum this up in a few words: books held menus within the pages, the drinks were strong – as my friend explained, “They had to get you drunk fast to get you in and out on one drink” – and the food was to die for. Each dish packed so much flavor into what they considered a “small plate.”
A duo band who sat themselves in the corner began to play smooth jazz. Listening to jazz feels almost nostalgic in a sense, if only for a glimpse of a time we weren’t born into. It brings to life an idea that we’ve only read about in history books. Jazz music inspires people, causing the happiness of being alive.
I’ve recently come to find that people have aesthetics in how they act or dress. Some are hipsters or obsessed with the color maroon – so much that their hair matches their wardrobe. My aesthetic, I’ve realized, is the speakeasy life: smooth jazz, hard liquor, fantastic food, and escaping reality.
The Sands Bethlehem is described as a casino and resort, having a vivid nightlife and amazing dining experiences with a building next door called the Events Center, where entertainment ranges from all genres of music to comedy acts to “The Price Is Right Live”. Flashbacks of seeing the bands that have saved my life flooded back to me. It’s not an easy task to forget, but being in the same venue brings vivid memories from the past.
The last time I was there, I saw All Time Low in concert. The lights were dimmed and the first loud strums of the electric guitar before Alex Gaskarth, lead singer, walked on the stage, beginning the lyrics to “Kids In The Dark”. Screams were heard, mosh pits were opened, and the off-key singing along began. I remember seeing A Day To Remember during their “House Party” tour. Lead singer, Jeremy McKinnon, climbed inside a clear plastic hamster ball and literally walked on his fans. He rolled on top of the audience, continuing to sing, as the rest of his band climbed the made-for-the-stage house.
Recently, I’ve only been at the casino, but the concert junkie in me still keeps an eye out for happenings in the building right next door. As the Sands becomes more popular with well-known bands coming in and out of Pennsylvania to perform, it’s hard to obtain the tickets to shows that have been sold out since the second they go on sale. Instead, I just have my experiences previously to tide me over until the next great band performs.
The time I spent in Bethlehem was amazing to say the least. While each was completely different in vibes and venues, it brought together different cultures to create a beautiful experience.