I sat down at the wooden, ornate yet simple hostel dinner table. It was the final night of my first stay in Tbilisi before I left for the mountains. Over the past week, I had formed a pretty solid friend group at my hostel, and together we decided to have one big night out before we left on our separate ways. It was Thursday, so not quite the weekend, but there always seemed to be something going on in the city, so a lively place should not be too hard to find. And even if the night was quiet, we were pretty confident we were going to enjoy it nonetheless.
Around the time 11:00 pm rolled around, we left the hostel, eager to find whatever awaited us. We all figured we would have to search for a bit, but not yet five minutes passed when we came across a lively outdoor bar with a patio and tables just to the side of Rustaveli Avenue (one of the main streets in the city). To us, this seemed great. Tons of people (primarily locals), live music, the fresh outdoors, and best of all, cheap drinks. So yes, we immediately grabbed a table, got drinks and sat down.
'We could probably just stay here for the night,' I thought, 'and it would be a great last night out.' But little did I know, things were about to happen. Just as we were beginning our third round (or maybe it was the fourth or fifth... the memory is a bit fuzzy), we were all approached by a group of Georgians, seemingly in their early twenties. To them, it was obvious that we were not Georgian (quite possibly because half our group was blond Scandinavian). So for them, this was seen as an opportunity to practice their English and chat with the foreigners. But for us, this was an opportunity as well to get an insider's info on the nightlife.
After we all hit it off, I took it upon myself to ask what their favorite place was to go for a night out. A few of them chuckled and said since it was Thursday, they were not up for such an evening (without mentioning anywhere by name). I sighed, sensing the defeat of my hopes. But then one girl in a green shirt with dark brown, shoulder length hair named Sofie interjected. "My friends are lame," she said. "Follow me." Excited, like dogs that had just found a bag of treats, we jumped out of out seats and followed her towards the exit. She then lead us along Rustaveli for a little bit, then turned down a dark and deserted alleyway. "Here," she said. We looked all around for some type of entrance way that resembled a bar, but all that was there was a black painted door in the wall with a few barely visible words in Georgian and English etched above it. I could not read the Georgian, but I assume it said the same as the English: Riffer Bar. We entered.
Through the door, there was a narrow corridor and then a staircase. As we descended, clouds of smoke as thick as Beijing air rushed past me and music began to ring through the air. Louder and louder, until finally we entered the main room, and what I saw was a site I will never forget. The entire scene was cast in a dim red lighting. The space was packed to the brim with people, all of which were Georgian, and up in front stood a stage. But there was no band on this stage. Instead, there was just one slightly overweight man with a big, bushy, dark beard holding a microphone, which was hooked up to a karaoke machine. The man gazed out over the crowd, then began to sing 'All These Things I've Done" by the Killers. And he sang with such a ferocious intensity, it would make Brandon Flowers blush (even though he got about half the words wrong). But the crowd loved it and went completely mad.
Wait a minute. I had to do a reality check. I have been to many rock concerts and even gypsy punk concerts (Gogol Bordello), but never before had I seen anything like this. The guy on stage jumped around like the wildest front man ever, meanwhile, the bouncers stood on either side encouraging the people to get rowdy and go nuts. And did they ever, but not in an angry way though. They were celebratory, absolutely loving life. I knew now there was naturally only one thing for me to do: put my hair down and headbang like it was the 1980s.
Now, maybe it was the crowd atmosphere, maybe it was the energy of the moment, or maybe it was the five too many drinks I had, but when the song ended, I jumped up on stage, with my hair still down and looking a big like a malnourished werewolf escaping from an insane asylum. I insisted that I go next. They handed me a microphone and instantly, I froze. What was I going to sing? What songs do I know? Can I even sing? I have a voice about as monotone as Boris Karloff's Frankenstein. How the hell did my life get to this point. Ok... ok... ok... It can't be anything melodic. Maybe something more yelling than singing... Then a thought came into my head, and before I could stop myself, I shouted, "Lithium by Nirvana!"
In retrospect, I apologize to the ghost of Kurt Cobain, but I proceeded to shout the lyrics (as said, my voice can't really do the whole singing thing), and the crowd went just as nuts as it did during the previous guy. This was it! It was my rockstar moment! Something I never thought could possibly happen. Granted it was in the most bizarre of circumstances and I didn't have any money or groupies waiting for me, but I still felt amazing nonetheless.
I left the bar later on that night with a voice too horse to speak, a shirt drenched in sweat, absolutely reeking of alcohol and secondhand smoke, and with an impending monstrous hangover waiting for me the next day. That said, this was my night of glory, and I was on top of the world. World leaders may have their power and millionaires may have their money, but none of them can have a night like this.