The Forgotten Venues Tour, Stop 1: Roadhouse Saloon

The Forgotten Venues Tour Bus! Okay, not really. Damn this budget!

The Forgotten Venues Tour Bus! Okay, not really. Damn this budget!

So it’s like this: Everyone in local music knows about “the usual spots” to see/play a show. The Outland/Ballroom always have something going on, Patton Alley and Murphy’s usually do on weekends, Bugsy’s once a week, Lindberg’s is Commercial Street’s regular spot, Cartoon’s for the Baby Boomer set, etc. However, common discussion doesn’t involve much else beyond those. It’s as though when the restriction on minors in bars, less affectionately known as “The Bar Ban,” happened, the world caved in a little on one side, we lost a handful of downtown spots and people bemoaned the lack of places to play. Really? Allow me to provide a counterpoint to those who would say this: You’re not looking hard enough. There are places all over Springfield willing and able to host live music. They already do, in fact, just not you–yet. So I’m on a mission: To find Springfield’s forgotten, or at least little-known, music venues. Maybe someone reading this series will find a new spot or two to book a show on an otherwise slow night at a place where they won’t have as much competition for openings. Maybe someone reading this series will find a new favorite or semi-favorite place to hit up on a night where they don’t have much interest in what’s going on at their usual haunts.

But DeRosh, I hear you saying. Downtown is so easy! All I have to do is walk or ride my bike, an- Suck it. The hell. Up. You’ll drive to Tulsa to see Name A Band That Was Big Ten Years Ago for $25 or so, but not 20 minutes to see a good band for next to nothing? People would pile into the Snorty Horse to see good local bands play, and that was about as far from Downtown as local music could get… or so we thought. Turns out there’s one place even further out, and you know what? It packs its room, too. Click the link and read about it.

Turns out we came to the Roadhouse Saloon (5739 S. Campbell Ave.) on a good night. Art Bentley is playing, and having seen Arthur on many occasions in many different locations, that seems like a good test for the Roadhouse’s venue-ness. Using Arthur as a constant–which he is–I can gauge sound quality, etc. compared to other places he’s played. Plus they have that new Guinness with the shocker cans! This should be fun.

Where is it?/How do I get there? Take Campbell Avenue south past Plainview Road and you’ll see the sign come up on your right-hand side. About the time you see the sign, you’ll see a road on the right to turn off onto. Take it, and the entrance is just a few yards further south on the outer road, again on the right. You would think this is the middle of nowhere, and no one will show up, and yet… one can almost never find easy parking. We took the last available slot for this trip.

What’s the crowd like? Significantly younger than expected (it’s 21-and-over only, though), VERY blue collar and definitely into motorcycles. The Roadhouse doubles as a motorcycle dealership and parts store by day, so the bar is covered in bike-themed art and the crowd looks like a room full of the shop’s customers who came back to throw down some beers after hours. The waitresses usually work in riding chaps, and some of them even have experience working in the bike shop. In short, if you can’t have a wild night here, you should probably be in bed anyway. The library opens early.

How’s the stage? It’s permanent and big enough (18 ft. wide by 9 ft. deep and 6 inches tall, by our estimate) to hold five undynamic people. If your band likes to jump and flail around onstage, I hope it’s a smaller act than that. No drum riser, either, if that matters. However, it’s sturdy and well-lit.

How’s the sound? Glad you hypothetically asked. Having seen Art Bentley dozens of times, we can tell you he’s never sounded better at any other gig we’ve been to. The room caters to a simple arrangement–a pair of Electrovoice speakers on poles at this show–but the walls are smooth-surfaced so sound doesn’t bounce or drown much. From the fan side, you can catch a show here and not worry about being deaf to your friends’ comments. The sound isn’t overpowering, either at the front or back. We sat about 15 feet from the stage and carried a relatively easy conversation.

What about the atmosphere? From my notes: “It’s a roadhouse, stupid.” As though my mind is a file cabinet with a drawer marked “roadhouse” that I can just instruct myself to open and cherry-pick cliches from. Not gonna do that. Besides, in many ways this place doesn’t merit it. Yeah, there’s a lot of motorcycle stuff on the walls–we especially love the 2003 and 2004 Daytona Bike Week banners hanging high on the south wall–but this isn’t the Patrick Swayze smash-a-bottle-over-someone’s-head kind of roadhouse. The regulars are friendly, and if you can’t strike up a conversation with them, the staff is a virtual guarantee.

How do I get in touch with them? The link at the beginning goes to the Roadhouse MySpace page–yeah, yeah, I know, here it is again–or, if you prefer to talk by phone, call 417-889-3447. We would tell you who to ask for, but frankly, the bartenders were so busy keeping up with the 100-or-so people in the room (by our estimation) that we couldn’t flag them down long enough to ask many questions. So we stuck to ordering beer. Not a bad plan.

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3 Responses to “The Forgotten Venues Tour, Stop 1: Roadhouse Saloon”

  1. The Show Report, 12/18: It’s time for an odyssey « Says:

    […] * Art Bentley at Roadhouse Cycles & Saloon. We’ve seen Arthur in a variety of settings, and this is by far our favorite. […]

  2. Local bands: Back on their grind « Says:

    […] road warrior. There is no such thing as an off night for the man. Thursdays he holds it down at one of Springfield’s best-kept secrets among live venues, and it’s arguably his best weekly […]

  3. The Forgotten Venues Tour, Stop 4: Fusion Bar & Grill | TheFourFour Says:

    […] what should be the next stop? After starting out with stops here, here and here, how about a location with one of the best-sounding rooms in Springfield not […]

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