The Accordion Club is, in many ways, quintessentially Durham. That may be most apparent in its burgeoning bathroom selfie war.
The Geer Street dive offers two compact bathrooms — one painted an almost garish mustard color and the other a smooth lilac — both covered head to toe in graffiti and stickers. This year, dueling Instagram accounts cropped up celebrating each, inviting patrons to take sides in a lighthearted sibling rivalry.
“Mustard is my older brother,” @lilac_selfie_attack explained via direct message. “I am more popular because I have a mirror and don’t have chains holding up my toilet paper roll. He’s super jealous because me, the younger sibling, gets all the attention.”
It’s true — since launching in July, the Lilac account has garnered close to 1,000 followers by re-sharing more than 250 photos from devotees. Through a scratched and Sharpie-d mirror, bar goers pose with middle fingers raised, doing a handstand, or with a mouth full of hot dogs. In one August photo, the entire bathroom is turned into a DJ booth, including a speaker, topped off with what looks like a livestream setup. At times, Lilac’s fans are partially clothed and at others wearing angel wings. Many of the selfies show groups of friends, sometimes numbering as many as seven in the small space.
Mustard is newer to social media, first appearing on Instagram in October. With just 33 posts and no mirror to speak of, @mustard_selfie_attack only brags about 170 followers. All of its selfies have been solo shots thus far, giving it a more subdued internet presence. But despite Lilac’s proclamations of Mustard being “super jealous,” the original bathroom shrugged it off as “just the usual sibling rivalry.”
“As the older bathroom, I’m a bit more stable and don’t really crave the limelight,” Mustard Selfie Attack said in a DM. “I suspect all the people who visit me know why they’re here, to relieve themselves and perhaps wax poetic upon my walls. There’s no mirror so selfies are really an afterthought.”
Both bathroom accounts were created separately and are also independent of the neighborhood bar or its owner, industry vet Scott Richie.
Soon after the Mustard account launched, Carrie Schleiffer — the executive chef at nearby Alley Twenty Six — jokingly pledged her allegiance to #TeamMusturd (as the bathroom’s profile puts it).
“I gotta be honest, I’m rooting for @mustard_selfie_attack over @lilac_selfie_attack a) because it’s the bathroom that works right now, and b) everyone loves an underdog,” she wrote on her post with a photo of Mustard’s toilet paper roll held up by a chain. “Having said that, these chains albeit awesome…not functional. Work it out mustard!!!”
Accordion Club is an industry favorite, and Schleiffer is far from the only food and beverage pro to weigh in. In a September photo for Lilac, more than half a dozen Vin Rouge servers can be seen celebrating with a giant, lottery-winner style check. Kristél “Stella” Poole, who works at James Joyce Irish Pub, posted from Lilac’s bathroom that “This place is the first that felt like home when I moved here from Richmond,” adding that it reminds her of her hometown Bamboo Cafe “but in a very Durham way.”
Erik Lars Myers — the former owner of Mystery Brewing and North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild president — is on Team Mustard.
“I’ve always liked purple, but I’m partial to Mustard,” he told Eater Carolinas. “Since it was out of order for a while, it feels like the underdog, and I tend to pull for the underdog.”
Myers frequents Accordion but he’s never actually visited either bathroom, he said. Still, he follows both on Instagram and enjoys watching the rivalry unfold online.
“It’s so very Durham,” he said. “It kinda reads like art, and I get to support my local service industry community. Plus, occasionally I know someone in a selfie.”
Despite being relatively new — Accordion Club opened in 2017 — it’s quickly become a local institution. Standing at the fringe of downtown less than a block from Motorco and Fullsteam, it’s a haunt for tattoo artists, INDY Week staffers, and skaters who are drawn to its unpretentious vibe, back patio overlooking Old North Durham Park, and cheap beer.
Its ability to embody the city’s gritty, artistic, come-as-you-are spirit is on full display with the battling bathrooms. Both Mustard and Lilac’s posts are infused with a decidedly punk attitude, with an air of almost defiant revelry saturating the Lilac account in particular.
Born from a genuine affection for the bar and run as fan accounts rather than self-promotional hack jobs, the sibling selfie attacks show the unglamorous but welcoming neighborhood bar at its best.