Does Washington Avenue Need Any More Live Music?

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What Rocks Off wanted to know was, with the atmosphere of bars on Washington transitioning over the past several years from dives and live-music venues to sports bars, clubs with dress codes and valet parking lots, is it really a viable goal to try to bring music back to the scene? And if so, how will a single open mike night a week help that. So we called up Elecia Wheeler ourselves.

One of the first things she told us was that Salt Bar's singer/songwriter night was just the tip of the iceberg.

"I have people playing Monday through Sunday now," she said. Hunter McKithan is the Monday night regular, Tuesdays are reserved for singer/songwriters who perform their own material. The Tuesday night open-mike night starts at 7 p.m., and is hosted by Brant Croucher, who recently moved from Nashville to Austin. Bryan Scott is the Wednesday night regular, Aaron Cuadra plays Thursday nights. Franky's Cut have Friday nights and JJ Usher, also of Austin plays Sundays. Both McKithan and Cuardra will bring special guests on stage with them each week, Wheeler said.

Because most of the bands booked for regular gigs are acoustic, folk or light funk, Wheeler said she's reserved Saturdays for touring bands and musicians who play electric instruments and harder rock. She said the bar's patronage is different on the weekends, and she's trying to accommodate that.

"During the week you get a crowd that's there to talk and enjoy music."

Wheeler also said she plans to start a summer concert series next door at Pearl Bar. She recognized a lack of female musicians in her weekly line-up, she added, so she'd like to do something similar to Lilith Fair -- a singer/songstress day -- at Pearl. But part of the problem of booking bands at Salt Bar is the venue's small size. The problem with Pearl Bar is the bar's immense popularity, which means any live music would have to take place during the day, most likely over a whole Saturday.

"We're busy at Pearl Bar at night," she said. "We don't need any more business at night." Wheeler sees the Tuesday open-mike nights as a way to discover new talent for her lineups on other days of the week.

"Come in and see if we like your style or see if people like your music and we'll find a slot for you," she said.

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Shey is an experienced blogger, social media expert and traveler. She studied journalism at Oklahoma State University before working as a full-time reporter for Houston Community Newspapers in 2005. She lived in South Korea for three years, where she worked as a freelancer.
Contact: Brittanie Shey