Howdy y’all! Quickdraw Phillips here! Proud to be part of Tip Jar and blogging for it!
Would like to talk to you today about VENUES. That’s right — there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly as far as venues go, any traveling musician can tell you that. So I thought I’d point out some venues in four states — Louisiana, Mississipi, Georgia, and Florida — that might be worth your while to look up and perform at. Now, as with most venues, none of them are perfect, but all four are venues that support good music and will work with you to put on the best show possible. Additionally, I’ll rank from 1 (low) to 10 (awesome) the venues ability to provide well in the following categories: Pay for the band, Tips and Merch, Sound capabilities, Food drinks and lodging, and Fan interest in the music.
1) Louisiana — The Wild Salmon (Lafayette, LA)
This venue ain’t much to look at, but it is a very popular locale in the heart of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, home of the Ragin’ Cajuns. The place usually has a sizeable cover charge for its shows (running around 8 bucks), and usually more than one band is on the bill. You won’t find a lot of tourists here, mostly locals. The decor is nothing spectacular, with a plywood bar, a pool table, a separate area for the stage shows, some really small bathrooms, and more stickers on the walls than you might find possibly anywhere. The venue does have its own sound booth and sound engineer, definitely a plus for the traveling act.
Fans come to the Wild Salmon not for food, dancing, or really fancy drinks and chit-chat — rather they are there for the music. Frankly, everything about the decor screams basement or garage, hence the music is easily the spotlight, as it should be! The folks who work at Wild Salmon will also overwhelm you with kindness, another plus for the weary out of towners. And the beer is cheap at about a $1.50 a bottle — you can’t beat it! If you going to take the time to travel throughout the southeast, a well-publicized-ahead-of-time stop at the Wild Salmon would benefit you.
Pay for the band: 3 (you only get the cover charge, or the split of it if working with other bands)
Tips and merch: 2 (didn’t find the patrons to be heavy tippers)
Sound capabilities: 7 (though the room is low-ceilinged, the engineer will do his darndest to make you sound good
Food, drink, and lodging: 5 (band gets a discount on drinks, but there’s no food available)
Fan interest in the music: 9 (just about everyone there stopped what they were doing to pay attention the the band once it started playing. Bravo!!)
2) Mississippi – Jack’s by the Tracks (Pascagoula, MS)
Just over the Florida-then-Alabama line and past the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln one will find the quiet, sleepy, yet ready-to-party town of Pascagoula, Mississippi. Now don’t let the “deep South” locale, Gulfcoast reputation, and economic deficiencies of Mississippi fool you — Pascagoula is place for the higher payscale to kick back, unwind, take their boats out, and party with dinner and good music at night. This venue is very accommodating to bands and features a stage with a window that can be opened to the street and patio area when the weather permits it. A litany of instruments and memories of past performers line the stage and restaurant itself — there’s even a memorabilia store in the back. The clientele is nearly Hipster, but it’s not. Instead, you’ll find as many locals looking for a good bluegrass sound as you will find out-of-towners wanting to hear something by Bonnie Raitt or John Mellancamp. And the culinary aspect? Second to none! You’ll find this out especially when the chef prepares band members their complimentary meals made-to-order. Despite lots of folk at Jack’s to meet each other and conversate, there’s a lot of clapping after songs, patrons interested in merch, and some decent tips as well. Jack’s has sound or one can bring one’s own. In short, Jack’s by the Tracks is definitely a place your engine should stop while on tour.
Pay for the band:6 (about $250 per band, not great but at least something)
Tips and merch: 7 (decent t-shirt and cd sales and some generous tips from patrons)
Sound capabilities: 7 (sound travels well, but you are advised to bring your own)
Food, drink, and lodging: 8 (free gourmet meal and bar tab as well!)
Fan interest in the music: 8 (though some were just at Jack’s for the ambiance, many were there for the music first, and bands can feel the love)
3) Georgia – Opi’s Roadhouse (Rome, GA)
If your group is looking to play a small-town country bar with LOTS of enthusiastic (and lubricated) patrons, then Opi’s Roadhouse is what this doctor is ordering. Located about 20 miles northwest of Atlanta, Opi’s is a newly renovated (it’s actually a fairly new building moved from the old site), fan-friendly restaurant and musical showcase establishment that looks to cater to its musicians as well as it does to its patrons.
The owners are a husband and wife team — the hubby is a former NASA engineer, while “Mama T” works for three different radio stations — you can see where a good performance and little bit of networking might get you. 🙂 They are extremely supportive of music at Opi’s, offering some type of performance 4-5 nights a week. The greatest aspect of the venue, however, is the service of the folks who work there. For example, while a band is playing, the waiters and waitresses will take a band’s merch box around the restaurant while actively engaging patrons to buy something — you can beat that if you’re an indy band trying to make it. Additionally, Mama T herself is usually on the dance floor, and it seems that she knows everyone who comes into the establishment. That personal connection goes a long way toward influencing a crowd to enjoy (or not enjoy) the act that’s performing. Fortunately, the act I was in was enjoyed by the throng! At one point, one of the more tipsy patrons wanted to buy our lead singer (we would have sold him for the right price!) People come to Opi’s to party, eat, hang out, laugh, drink, drink some more, and party some more — it is the joint to be at in Rome. And they reward based on performance — though we were supposed to have 50% off of food and drinks, by the end of the night, they had liked us so much that our tab was completely covered. When you’re out on tour, and you need that boost of confidence to remind you how fun performing actually is, Opi’s Roadhouse will give it to you.
Pay for the band:6 (about $250 per band)
Tips and merch: 10 (merch sales were great, tips were okay, but it was about as good a night as a group can have — the help from the staff did wonders)
Sound capabilities: 6 (a bit hard to hear at times; Opi’s has a house sound system you can use as well)
Food, drink, and lodging: 10 (our food and drinks were covered, and the owners invited the band to stay over at their estate for the night — you can’t beat it!)
Fan interest in the music: 6 (This is definitely a party first, music second venue, but hey, everyone is having a good time because you’re performing with and for them.)
4) Florida – Bradfordville Blues Club (Tallahassee, FL)
Of the four venues detailed in this week’s blog, this one is definitely the most famous and renowned, yet it seems to be little known outside of Tallahassee. Nestled about 13 miles off campus, in what would seem to be the middle of nowhere, one will find a peculiar looking building passing more for VFW than a blues club. Inside, however, is a different story, as this club is adorned with historical artwork depicting great musicians through the ages. And everyone has played at BBC, from B.B. King to Little Richard. Today, however, the club hosts many genres, but they do have a screening process — if your band is invited to play at BBC, consider it a huge honor.
The bluegrass band I currently play in, Gators in the Sawgrass (gatorsinthesawgrass.com ), has been there twice, and each time has been magical. Though it has many unique characteristics, the best aspect of the Bradfordville Blues Club is its rules — one DOES NOT TALK while the band is playing. Patrons must listen. What a novel idea!! And it is enforced. If you have always wanted an audience that will truly appreciate the inundation and innuendo of your passions in song, this is a place to find it. Additionally, it is prestigious as a “place to be that only a few know about,” and those folks are usually educated — not uncommon to find a Florida State law professor hanging out there incognito. The sound is excellent, provided in house, and they even accommodate the phantom microphone power that traditional bluegrass artists typically perform around. But for any traveling band, that absolute BEST feature has nothing to do with the gig — it is the massive ranch house the band can stay in while the band performs there, and sometimes, the band can stay in it as long as it is perfomring in the area! This house has four bathrooms, seven bedrooms, is stocked with food, has several fire places, even a garage — it is the ultimate hangout and party spot a traveling act could ask for. As a special treat, every act that comes through tends to leave a CD, so one can sample tons of music that BBC has featured. When making the list of ideal venues you’d like to play at before you hang up your musical chops someday, Bradfordville Blues Club needs to be on it.
Pay for the band:4 (based on the door, but it can be great some days)
Tips and merch: 8 (people come to BBC because they’re interested, and like to invest in, good music)
Sound capabilities: 10 (huge sound board with whatever you might need equipment-wise and an engineer to run it)
Food, drink, and lodging: 10 (we didn’t really partake of food and drink at the club, that is easily scores a “10” for the band house alone — you have to see it to believe it)
Fan interest in the music: 10 (Nearly as good as playing in a symphony orchestra for a quiet audience. Rarely do you find this in clubs.)
So there you have it! Hopefully this four venue review will entice you and your band to make a roadtrip and benefit from notoriety throughout the South. At the very least, try one of the venues out and make of it what you can — all four have great qualities about them.
I’m looking to maybe review one venue a week from here on out, so keep looking for “Quickdraw SHOOTS!” right here at the Learning a New Beat blog.