The Forgotten Venues Tour, Stop 2: The New Key Largo

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

The Forgotten Venues Tour Bus: Impossible to park in the Key Largo parking lot if you're not alert. Thank God we arrived sober.

The tour rolls on, to another spot people may not think of to go and see (or play) a show: The New Key Largo, or, as we like to call it, “The Largo.” The old Key Largo, much like the original Bombay Bicycle Club, was a Boomer haven rife with dance opportunities. While the New Key Largo shares little more than 50% of its name with its progenitor, it offers an important wrinkle as well: a stage for live bands. So how does the revived club measure up as a music spot for fans and bands? Read on and find out.

So we set foot in The Largo (1281B E. Republic Road) at a remarkably dainty (for us, anyway) 8 p.m. to catch a glimpse of Santa Fe, a country act relatively new to the local scene but quickly gaining attention. We knew the band would be worth the trip–Santa Fe won awards in its home state of Texas for best country music act, and almost every member played professionally for many years at one time or another–but we were pleasantly surprised by the room, a giant and charming spot with people excited to hear songs they know and can dance to, or even some originals with a good backbeat.

Where is it?/How do I get there? Uh… um… Here’s the problem: It’s on Republic Road, but not directly on Republic Road; it’s behind another building. Also, the sign for the bar still gives the room’s previous name, The Barn. Here’s what you do: Take Fremont Avenue south to Republic Road, turn right and drive west until you see a pair of tall multi-sign stacks. Look for the one that has a blue sign that reads “The Barn” (read quickly), then turn right when you reach it. Drive past the small streetfront place to the ginormous-looking building behind it, carefully navigate through the metal-gated entrance (be extra careful if you’ve consumed 2+ adult beverages) and park in the back. Try not to hit anything when maneuvering around in the parking lot. Hey, we didn’t say you wouldn’t have to earn your live music tonight.

What’s the crowd like? On weekends it covers a broader range, though still primarily of Boomer age, but on this night if you were in The Largo and not drawing Social Security (or close to it), chances are you were the staff or the DeRosh.

The drawback to this: Generally (empashis on generally, as we did see pitchers passing around, too), the crowd drinks less. The advantage: Great audience-to-band interaction. The crowd here is an extremely friendly bunch. The secret to unlocking this is easy: Give them something they can dance to. Because they will dance… and dance… and dance. The room’s centerpiece is a hardwood dance floor approximately 25′ x 20′, one of the nicest in Springfield and rarely, if ever, empty. Sense of rhythm varies among the crowd, but if you keep the people up out of their seats and moving they will like you and your repeat-gig security will likely go up. Room capacity is officially listed at 164 (talk about underestimating), but this room isn’t afraid to book such mega-draws as M-Dock and the Blues Society of the Ozarks’ Memphis Bound competition. On that note: If you want to play here, network heavily, promote and bring people of your own out to the show. It will pay off.

How’s the stage? 12′ x 8′-ish, and about two feet tall, with a steel-tube railing and eight can lights pointing down from above. Santa Fe chose to set up with its three guitar players down at dance-floor level in front of it, with the keyboardist and drummer onstage, though singer Grant McIntosh says the band usually sets up entirely on the stage without any problems. They just felt like switching it up tonight.

How’s the sound? Solid and not overwhelming from the fan’s perspective. The staff said two people in the audience complained of too-high volume on this night, but consider the age category. We’re not talking about people who stand in the front row for El Minotaur, here.

If you’re a band, the crew at The Largo recommends bringing your own PA if you have one; they have their own, but they suggest the DIY PA in case bands can bring better equipment on their own. By all accounts this rarely happens, but be prepared anyway. Call for technical specifics if you’d rather go with theirs. Also, FYI, you’ll be doing your own sound, so come as prepared as you can.

The biggest potential drawback we could find was the size of the room. The Largo, in its previous incarnation, was known as The Barn, and the room feels like a barn in almost every way: Ridiculously high ceilings, faux wooden doors on the north and south walls. The Largo has since done an admirable job erasing the room’s previous vibe, swapping it for an island cantina motif, but the cavernous nature of the room remains. Surprisingly, we noticed no ill effect on how sound carried.

What about the atmosphere? A packed room at The Largo will be a blast to play for. This Thursday group was an eager bunch, ready to boogie at the first sign of a decent rhythm. Also, while a room previously known as the Barn and now known as the New Key Largo sounds like a tough room to change decor in, The Largo actually pulled off the transition well. Tropical plants, bamboo and thatched-reed roofing do a lot, along with cargo netting above the bar. The room has ample seating in spite of the dance floor (again, the 164 capacity given seems rather low), so bring the crowd and get ready to party.

How do I get in touch with them? We suggest calling 417-881-8144 and asking for Jerry, the owner. He’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.


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