Friday, July 16, 2010
The Red Barn
There is a small group of regulars that show up around 5 to watch the news and shoot the shit, but really this place is all about the music. There are only two (2) tv's and no games.That's right, no pool, no shuffleboard, no crackbox, Golden Tee, or Silver Strike. The Barn might be the only place in Peoria that doesn't have at least one of these entertainment options available. That's fine with me because the Red Barn is always booking bands (many from the Peoria area) to play. Tuesdays and Fridays are open mic nights with drums and a PA.
This is really why the Red Barn is so important to Peoria. It is one of many taverns like Pizza Works and the Whammy Bar that do their absolute best to support local and non-local original music. Sure, lots of bars book cover bands and lots of people pack Crusens and the like every weekend to see them. But for a bar owner to take a chance on a local, unsigned act to play in his/her bar takes a certain amount of courage. In short, this means that the owner is more commited to supporting upcoming musicians than packing their bar in order to make money. This kind of thing just doesn't happen that often anymore. If you can't appreciate that, than have fun at some other bar where the owner is more busy finding out ways to make money than trying to keep their patrons happy. I realize that not everyone is willing to take a chance on a band that they've never heard of but sometimes, it is necessary to step outside your comfort zone. You never know, you might stumble upon a gem like Tina Sparkle, the Yorktown Prophet, or Derrick Hart.
When you walk into the barn you'll see a small and extremely worn bar that, if you look closely used to be red. Years of elbows and beer spills have made the paint all but non-existent. The bar seats only about ten but there are several booths on the wall to sit at. As you walk towards the back, the bathrooms are on the left. Both the women's and the men's are covered with graffiti from folks all over the country who have either played with or watched a band at the Barn. The only maxim that comes to mind is; "Remember it is usually better to pissed off than pissed on!" Usually!? I would think it is always better to pissed off than pissed on but apparently this individual does not subscribe to that idea. You could spend an hour in each bathroom and still not finish reading all signatures, quotes, and words of wisdom inscribed in every corner.
Past the bathroom is the stage. It is only a few inches high but the tall ceiling makes it seem bigger. This is the part of the building that most resembles a barn. There are exposed rafters and a tall ceiling and the walls are bare wood. Other than the stage lights shining on the performers, the only illumination in the back room are small red candles that dot each table. I can attest that when you are on stage these candles stick out more than faces surrounding them. The contrast in atmosphere from the front bar area to the stage in back is staggering. It's like walking from a hole-in-the-wall in Peoria straight into a beatnik-era club in Greenwich Village. It is definitely one of my (and many others) favorite places to play. There is even an old church pew to relax on while enjoying music. A friend of the PBR made the observation that it is "surely not a Catholic pew, because it's much to comfortable." He's got a good point.
Originally, I intended to talk to the owner, Buffalo Dan Solomon and get some history on the Barn. I still plan on doing this but a recent article from Phil Luciano kind of changed the direction of this review. I won't go through all the details, you can read them here. Basically, the owner of the Back Store owns everything surrounding the Red Barn, including a shared parking lot. After years of paying rent on the lot and paying for its upkeep every year, this gentleman decided he wasn't making enough money in rent. Buffalo Dan said he would not pay the jacked up price, so the owner of the Back Store, Ken Humphrey, put up barricades to block the Barn's patrons from parking. Illegal? No. Dick move? Yes.
He has also purchased the old gas station on the corner of Sheridan and Glen and plans on turning it into a restaurant. I'm not sure how well that will work and I hope he does well. I am in support of any and all local businesses succeeding no matter how much of an ass the owner is. What doesn't make sense is why he would piss off many of the people who go to the Red Barn and could possibly be patrons at his new restaurant. After all, this is a neighborhood tavern and the Barn was there first, so I think it would be safe to say that the neighborhood's loyalties would lie with their bar. The reason I say that this is a dick move is because Solomon was originally paying $250 a month for shared use of the lot. In reality, this is an incredibly cheap price. Humphrey told Solomon he wanted $600 and Dan said no. Humphrey than countered with an offer of $500. Dan again said no and that was the end of the discussion. Could these two businessmen not split the difference? I have a feeling Buffalo Dan would be willing to do so. Whether or not Humphrey would is something I doubt. Rant over.
So, if you've never been to the Barn or you've been there a hundred times, go in and show your support, if you're so inclined. I would have no problem parking across the street if necessary in order to show my support for Buffalo Dan and the Red Barn.
Cheers to the Red Barn and cheers to local music!