There have been a lot of rays of sunshine lately among local venues, with the return of Lindberg’s and the transition of The High Life into live music arguably topping the list. One void has remained unfilled, however: The Snorty Horse Saloon, Springfield’s medium-size venue that not only held down the music scene north of Commercial Street but singlehandedly sparked local interest in Red Dirt country, has been dormant for more than a year. In about three months the space inside the Budget Lodge (3050 N. Kentwood Ave.) is slated to reopen, and it could be better than ever before. We’ll tell you all about it after the break.
Brian Matney, former drummer for Tiny Red Spiders, Tripwire and, most recently, McGill, is partnering with local businessman Albert Lee to revive the former Snorty Horse location as The Ugly Mug Live Music Tavern. The plan is to open the club in September, but according to Matney you’ll notice sweeping changes when you walk inside. Foremost, at least for music lovers, will be the rebuilt stage, which will be moved to the center of the room. The plan, Matney says, is to put risers along each side of the stage for fans to be able to sit and better see the onstage musicians at work, similar to what was in Mississippi Nights in St. Louis. By Matney’s estimate, the newly remodeled room will have a seating capacity of approximately 400 people, almost 100 more than the Snorty Horse had. Additionally, the Ugly Mug will retain access to the banquet room next door for national acts, which itself has a capacity of 1,200-plus. There are also plans in the works to have a mug special where patrons can bring in their own mug (20 ounces or less) with a weird or unique design or shape and keep that mug in the bar as the basis of a sort of mug club, hence the bar’s name.
Musicians onstage will notice some big changes, too. Not only is there the aforementioned stage, but Matney says he’s bringing in more than $35,000 of new JBL-brand PA equipment and computer-controlled LED lighting. Not only that, but Matney says he will be moving his Pro Tools-equipped home recording studio into the bar for bands to be able to cut live records inside the room. Why so much work? “Act professional and the professionals will come,” Matney says.
And it’s professionals he says he wants–national as well as local. Matney, 40, says he draws his inspiration from now-gone clubs such as The Regency Showcase (present-day Icon Nightclub) and The Juke Joint (present-day Hagerman New Urbanism Gallery, Coffee Ethic, Park Central Branch Library and Susan Sommer-Luarca Fine Art Gallery), and as such he wants to book both touring acts that could, but don’t, come to Springfield, as well as local acts willing to work to fill the room and aspiring to play with such touring acts and, perhaps, someday become one themselves. Matney also says he wants to work with other music club owners in putting on coordinated events and in cultivating followings for local talent. (Read: Actively helping bands play other rooms around town, rather than not helping/actively discouraging it.)
Musicians interested in booking The Ugly Mug Live Music Tavern can get in touch with Matney at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll keep you in the know on more developments with the club as the opening date gets closer. For that, September can’t come soon enough.