With trivia games running all over town almost every night of the week, finding the perfect game is more about a bar’s clientele than its beer specials. Dollar Buds are great, tables of sparsely clad co-eds too drunk to put pencil to paper without giving each other lap dances first are not. The absence of the latter is what makes 3 Crow Bar’s Thursday night trivia stand apart.
A lot of the appeal can be attributed to Trivia Time, the hosts of 3 Crow’s competition, which runs from 8 to 10 p.m. The company emcees games at 10 bars across the city, which puts them in front of about 1,000 people each week. But owners Julian Hinson and Laura Wilson want to know you—and that’s how they get it so right. Their thorough analysis of each audience translates into a tailored 20-question intellectual brawl, uniquely suited to the room. Trivia Time runs a refreshingly vintage game in which contestants actually write answers on paper and foot them up to the hosts before the end of a song, which also means the music selection’s key.
At 3 Crow, the 25-to-40 crowd is fairly eclectic, but polo shirts, cascading cleavage and the frat pack are few and far between. So Hinson and Wilson have created a game where you’re more likely to hear a Postal Service song than a Salt-N-Pepa jam. (My research, unfortunately, also led me to a sports bar on the outskirts of town where I saw two tank-topped trivia-goers sporting mom jeans and grinding to “Let’s Talk About Sex” near the dart boards.) You won’t see any of that at 3 Crow Bar. These gamers don’t take their trivia lightly.
When posed with a so-called “lost lyrics” question in round three, members of five teams tore out of the bar and took to the street, fingers in ears, singing it out and chattering in frustration: “I know it’s U2, but is it ‘Walk On’ or ‘Mysterious Ways’?” And in this crowd it’s acceptable to kick at the sidewalk while you belt it out. Yeah, it’s that serious.
With first place taking home $50 in bar cash—hardly enough to make a dent in your 10-person tab—things get crazy competitive, with rampant shushing and self-policing. (One girl who stepped outside one too many times with her Blackberry came under immediate suspicion. Phoning a friend is strictly disallowed.) Course, this isn’t the largest trivia game in town. Hinson says it usually draws anywhere from 80 to 120 people. But with chronic high scoring competitors like team Hepatitis C, a few points shy of a perfect 150, you need to bring your A game.
So get there early. Tables usually fill up by 7:30. And if you don’t have a large team in tow, get there even earlier to recruit. The most successful trivia runs are all about assembling a crack team. With topics ranging from sports and science to celebrities and lost lyrics, the best teams are strange amalgamations of polar opposites, like the car-racing über fan and the IMDB junkie, clinking mugs and embracing in victory.
With two environmental engineers, a Northwestern master’s grad and a guy who made it to the third round of auditions for VH1’s World Series of Pop Culture, you would think team Dick Cheney Shot My Mom in the Face would be a lock for 3 Crow’s top three. Or at least it’s halftime competition for best team name. But we learned the hard way. When it came to the final Double Down round, team Cheney’s ultimate undoing began with a NASCAR stumper and ended with a question about BBC’s Absolutely Fabulous. So in the end, we didn’t know that Lowe’s Motor Speedway is in North Carolina. That’s trivia death. But in life, that’s something to be damn proud of.
Insider’s Tip: Trivia Time posts a new clue each day for a Double Down round question at myspace.com/triviatime.