By Bill Coady
Over the past month or so, for a variety of reasons, I have been doing something I have not done a lot of in my life — hanging out in bars. I am generally such a stick in the mud that my better half did in fact ask me, “How can you stand to spend so much time hanging out in bars?” I guess I should explain all this.
I am your basic non-smoking teetotaler. Smoke filled rooms make my physically ill, and I do not suffer fools, especially drunk fools, gladly. So, hanging out in bars has never been at the top of my “to-do” list. Which actually has always bugged me quite a bit.
As much as I didn’t like the idea of being in dark smoky room where people getting “loosened up” were screeching at each other, there is a very important reason I would like to hang out in bars. Live music. I love music. It just works its way into my soul. Really deep into my soul. All kinds of music — blues, rock, jazz, swing, even classical. I love to hear it and love to watch as talented people really get into their art. But I have not been partaking as often as I could or as I would like.
I have always taken advantage of things like the Concerts on the Square, which is a near perfect venue for a person like me for live music. Clean, open and free. I am pretty much there every week. I have never been much of a Grand Theater person, just too rich for my blood. Not so much in absolute terms (although seats are a bit on the pricey side) but rather in relative terms. For the price of seats at a two hour show, I can buy five CDs that will last almost forever. But overall, I have been missing a lot of live music around town. Until lately.
Needing to expand my horizons for the blog a bit and having been asked to snap a few pix for the local alternative weekly got me “hanging out in bars.” And overall it has been pretty darn good. It is pretty easy to “stand” it right now.
Count me as one person who loves the no-smoking ordinances! It is so nice to be able to go into a place and be able to breath. And taste the food and drink. And be able to see the performers through non-watery eyes. Thank you, thank you, thank you, legislators and activists that put these laws through. And I apologize to club owners for not getting out sooner and taking advantage of this new atmosphere — literally. I am there now though, and I hope that other sticks in the mud like myself (I know us sticks are legion!) will follow.
I do want to mention three venues I have experienced in my new found nightlife and just give a quickie review to hopefully entice more of you out and about.
Let’s start with the grandaddy of them all, the Scott Street Pub. The Pub certainly has the vibe, that is for sure. You can almost feel the ghosts of all the performers that have been there. The set up for live music is pretty good, with a little stage area and plenty of room for seating and even dancing. The shows I have been to there were more low key and “folky” so were not big parties as perhaps Dino experienced with the Lucky Stiffs. Unfortunately the service at the Pub is a bit lacking. One show I went to was supposed to have a cover charge, but no one bother to collect it (or maybe that is service!) Food and drink choices tend to be spotty, things listed on the menu are sometimes not available, but overall the food is good. The Pub is certainly reliable for music, but not so much so for overall experience.
Just around the corner, Kelly’s Martini Bar is almost ALL service. A wonderfully friendly waitstaff walking around with their silver canisters are ready to serve up an amazing selection of “martinis.” Being a teetotaller, I didn’t sample the wares there, but menu is amazing. It strikes me that the drinks are more akin to wine coolers than martinis, but people seem to like them. Kelly’s sticks more to jazz as their musical selection, and there are lots of great jazz acts around town. Unfortunately, the building is not set up ideally for music. There are two separate rooms with seating and the performer sets up in the hallway between the two rooms. Not ideal, but it works. Much more of a “grown-up” experience than the Pub and very pleasant indeed.
And a bit further down the street — in Stevens Point to be exact — is another wonderful venue. Clark Place is a near perfect combination of Kelly’s and the Pub. It certainly has the street cred of the Pub. Clark Place has live music nearly every night. Features both local and national acts. The posters around the place can serve as a musical education in themselves. Clark Place has a real stage (with a really nice background) for the performers and a terrific sound system. The room is huge and very open feeling, more like a theater than a bar. The service, though not at the level of Kelly’s is quite good, and for $6.50, the pizzas they serve up are well worth it. Clark Place is a near perfect place to get your music fix — even with the drive to Point.
I am sure there are other places for me to check out and when I do, you will read about them here.