I love to dance, and back in the day, my friends and I would dance the night away at a variety of night spots throughout the city. Who can forget Funky’s, Williamsburg Inn, Gloria’s, Time Out and the Executive Inn Showroom?
Of course, there were many others. Test your memory and see how many of these popular places you can remember:
13th Hour, 3T’s, Alibi, Allen’s Lounge, Arc Lanes, Black Cat Tavern, Black Horse, Blue Note, Blue Parrot, Blue Skye Inn, Blush, Bob’s Lounge, Boogie Nights, Breakers, Bridgeview, Bullocks, Cactus Bobs, Captains Den, Club Paradise, Country Palace, Damien’s, Elliot’s, Dodge Inn, Dogtown Tavern, Duck Inn, East Quarter, Embers, Executive Inn Showroom Lounge, Fast Eddies, Filling Station Lounge, Ford’s Bar, Forget-Me-Not Inn, Fox and Hound, Foxes Den, Frenchies (Newburgh), Funky Monkey, Funky’s, Gaslight, Ginny’s Place, Gloria’s, Golden Record, Good Time Bobbies, Green Oasis, Hammerheads, Harpoles, Haymakers, Hobo Jungle, Hoosiers Lounge, House of Como, Icon, Joeys, Kramer’s Lake, King’s Tavern, Lameys, Lanhucks, Lawndale Lounge, Mad Bull, Main Street Exit, Maryland Street Lounge, Maxwell House, Mecca Bar, Monks, Neon’s, Old Kentucky, Oxygen, Pegs, Pete’s Supper Club, Petroleum Club, Quarter Note, Ramada Inn Airport, Rascals, Red Barron (Old Holiday Inn), Red Fox (Chandler), Red Garter, Ri Ra’s, Rustic Inn, Scandals, Scorpios, Shenanigans, Side Track, Silver Dollar, Sky’s Billiards, Smokehouse, St. Joe Tavern, Stage Door, Stoney’s, Strutters, Stucco House, Super Inn, The Coachman, The Dungeon, The Lamplight, The New Yorker, The Omni, The Piranha, The Pub, The Razz, The Ross (After the theatre closed), The Village Saloon, The Wheel, Third Base, Three Coins, Time Out Lounge (Downtown), Tinkers, Towerlite, Trocadero (Henderson), Turf Bar, Victory, Wayside Inn, Wizards, Woody’s and Zulu Saloon.
No doubt, many of these venues brought to mind a lot of fun times and maybe even made you smile a little. All of these places shared one common denominator….LIVE MUSIC!
I hadn’t really thought a lot about this until a few weeks ago. Hubs and I were out to dinner with friends and as dinner was winding down, I said, “Let’s all go listen to a band somewhere and maybe even dance?” Where could we go? Of course, we all pulled out our trusty smart phones and contacted our good friend Google for “places offering live music in Evansville”.
I wish I could say that I was surprised by the search results; however, having been married to a musician for the past 33 years, I was very well aware of the decline of live music in the area. As I suspected, there were only a handful of places promoting live music. To make matters worse, the few bands that were playing were booked from out-of-town, not local musicians! How could this be? After-all, Evansville touts “Buy Local” as a mantra and “Support Small Businesses” as a theme; therefore, I guess the thought process, with regard to live music and local musicians, is that they’re good enough to hire here and there on a weeknight, but apparently not respected enough to hire on a busy Friday or Saturday night.
So with heavy sighs, we left the restaurant and headed to our respective homes to turn on the TV and call it a night.
I couldn’t quit thinking about it. What happened to live music in this town? What changed? After-all, it wasn’t that long ago that you could find a venue in town where a band was playing your favorite genre. Whether you loved country, rock, oldies, blues, jazz or even a mix, live music was alive and well in Evansville. Live music was once part of our culture, a big city mindset encapsulated within a hometown environment.
The music business (even locally) can be a cutthroat industry. It’s difficult for musicians to speak their mind because their very livelihood depends on it. When my husband retired from playing this year, I knew that the window of opportunity had opened and it was the right time for me to try to be the voice that sounded the clanging cymbal (pardon the pun), and possibly shed some light on the problems, expose some of the corruption and maybe offer some tips on how venues and local musicians could work together to bring about change.
The music business is competitive, the pay is lousy and making a living as a musician is tough anywhere, but in Evansville, it’s next to impossible. When I had the idea to blog about this topic, my goal was to simply to explore why Evansville was once a thriving, booming area for live music and today, appears to be dying a slow death. I really thought this would be an easy blog to write because I knew where to place blame….or so I thought.
In an effort to understand the present, you must research the past, explore the results from every angle and find the truth. What I discovered is that the struggle is real for both venues and musicians.
Facts are facts and many factors have contributed to the decline:
Is there hope for live music to be revived, appreciated and dare we ask, even thrive once more in Evansville? I am an eternal optimist and I believe it can; however, it will take dedicated and intentional effort from venues, musicians and the community. Yes, the community. Unless the community as a whole determines to value and support live music, nothing will change for the better.
I have spoken with musicians and venues, as well as, researching the live music decline in general. Maybe musicians and venues alike have become complacent and used to things being “the way it is”.
Here are some ideas that may help change the focus, redirect and be a catalyst for change:
This is not a blog of gloom and doom, but hopefully an article of awareness and encouragement. Evansville could become known, once again, as a thriving arts community. It’s a proven fact that a thriving arts community helps create a thriving economic community. (Businesses want to move into thriving areas because they want to be part of the growth, not the sole support of it)
Evansville already has a lot going for it with a professional orchestra and a great music education program in our schools, but they too need funding to sustain it. Just imagine, with dedicated and intentional efforts from venues, musicians and the community, Evansville’s music scene, and the arts in general, could grow easily, we just need to make it happen!