Wax figures, familiar folks caught somewhere between life and art, still hang out at the museum you probably toured with your scout troop. But nowadays Pocohontas, Neil Armstrong and company are just wallflowers around the bar.

Reborn as a nightclub three months ago, the Wax Museum at 4th and E streets SW draws 800 or so rowdies on a typical Saturday night, scattered between theater seats, tables and bar stools. Evolving from dinner theater to fish show, what's now the stage was once a dolphin tank. The front-row dance floor is soon to be expanded when another couple of rows of seats are removed, according to manager Rich Vendig. All manner of acts are booked during the week when admission ranges up to $15; (it's $6.25 for The Motels on June 28), but weekends are rock-band parties for the college set, at a regular $2 charge. Drafts go for $1.75.

"Desperado's and the Bayou get the same people all the time," said Jay Groundwater of Alexandria, back after seeing NRBQ at the Wax Museum a week earlier. "Here the crowd depends on the group."

Last Saturday, it was alligator-to-alligator for Charlottsville's Skip Castro Band. At the box office, tickets were going at the regular price, with a standing-room-only warning. The entire University of Virginia student body seemed to be on hand, in bluejeans and the three basic Izod colors, surging toward the stage screaming "Shake, Rattle and Roll." As Vendig observed, "we get a more preppy crowd than the Bayou, but they're a gentle crowd. All you'd have to threaten them with is, 'This will appear on your college record . . .' "

Clearly the proudest audience member was Kitty Randall of McLean, whose son Bo played lead guitar. "I'm kind of the band mother," she confessed. Meanwhile, in the relative quiet and clean air of the lobby, three video games blinked to a different drummer.

THE WAX MUSEUM -- Facet, Friday and Saturday at 9 at 4th and E Streets SW.