It's 10:37 on Saturday night at 9 Million in Unmarked Bills, the new bar in Fremont where the Triangle Lounge used to be. A group of guys—ebullient, well on their way—are getting an improbable amount of mileage out of a blond surfer-style wig. Wearing it cranially is hilarious enough, but now one man relocates the wig to his crotch, holding it there as a furry straw-colored merkin, and performs pelvic thrusts to the music. This is comedy gold. He thrusts some more.
The evening has reached its turning point, from drinks-with-friends to par-TAY. The soundtrack, apparently by DJ Short Attention Span, is approximately 20 seconds each of favorites from every era: Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys, Violent Femmes, Jimi Hendrix. It's the medley that never ends, which might be considered a special level of hell, but a good time is being had by all.
The wig-guys are in T-shirts and shorts and flip-flops, while three women in a row at the bar wear cocktail dresses in various configurations of tight/short/strapless with high heels. The ladies are dressed for Amber, the guys for the George & Dragon: 9 Million in Unmarked Bills is the latest and most radical transplantation of Belltown to Fremont. The Triangle's neon "PRESCRIPTIONS" sign remains, a relic of a more lived-in era. Now pillars of cream-colored light outline stark tree branches, suede-ish upholstered booths have marble-topped tables, and accent walls are padded in squares. The color scheme ranges from dark to dark, and the tip of the triangle has a new bar. They're out of lamb sliders, but spicy shrimp with polenta and Gorgonzola crostini with kale are above-average. Cocktails are named after famous robbers and called "craft" (though one contains vanilla Absolut).
By the entry, a manual typewriter has a this-is-a-stick-up note in it, an homage to the bar's name—which itself was inspired by local Jeremy Bert's artwork of mismatched salvaged neon spelling out the words "Leave Nineteen Million Dollars in Unmarked Bills," formerly installed at McLeod Residence. Some controversy attended this inspiration; 9 Million in Unmarked Bills owner (and former Triangle bartender) Nate Rezac inquired about the piece, was discouraged from buying it, then had his own, very different sign made.
Stranger art critic Jen Graves suggested that Rezac offer Bert free drinks for life as a gesture of recognition. Saturday night suggests that an artist who deals in salvaged neon might not find 9 Million in Unmarked Bills to be his scene, free drinks or not. (Bert and Rezac are reportedly on friendly terms.) However, it's noteworthy that the service was outstanding—as befits a bartender's bar—especially considering the medley-and-wig par-TAY going on. And happy hour at 9 Million in Unmarked Bills, with its roll-up garage doors and outdoor seating, seems like it'll be well-suited to everyone.