sportsmens-tavernSo you think at first when you hear Sportsmen’s Tavern that you’re going into some bar with lots of TV’s lining the walls at various angles with multiple games going on and beer being downed at a slow pace or with gusto but that’s not this place in Buffalo. The Sportsmen’s Tavern is a true music venue. With a high stage that has plenty of room, good sound system and upstairs seating that is also elevated to allow the rows in back to view the bands on the stage, it’s an impressive set-up when you walk in. The neighborhood the club is in would make some gentrified people a bit wary but you soon realize it’s all good and your anxiousness melts away. This is our third time in this club and I love it. The audience is a real listening crowd too. All kinds of acts play this place and there’s been lots of singer/ songwriters come through so maybe that gives them the listening discipline from their support of that genre.
We arrive and do our load-in and sound check and while this is going on people are starting to arrive and taking seats. It’s an hour or so before the show and I take this as a good sign that we’ll have a decent crowd for a Monday night. The show is also early and that will help since the majority of my fans are over 30. You can still be home before the evening news after we’re done.
It’s also become evident to me, from people whose opinion I trust, that my blogs can get a bit self-absorbed with me writing about my practicing. Let’s just now assume that it’s going on just about every day in my life, home or on the road, and we’ll now adopt a tacit understanding to this. Enough said and I won’t mention it anymore. So we get to the hotel and I get the guitar out and start to run through some new things…just kidding. Old habits die hard.


Sportsmen’s stage – photo courtesy of Jerry Craig

We do have a good crowd for a Monday and we start in on the first set. Sometimes it’s a real scene changer when you play so many club dates and there are the different heights of stages we acclimate to. Tonight’s is a good 4 feet and I’m looking down on everybody. Also, when there’s an upper level I try to make sure I give the upper fans eye contact as well to make them feel they’ve got my attention too. I know I’ve had some nights where I’m really concentrating on my voice with hitting the right pitch and phrasing and for the most part my eyes are closed cuz’ sometimes the monitors in the club aren’t too good and I really have to concentrate while doing this so I don’t give much eye contact out there. I wish I was a natural at playing and singing but I’m not and I have to work at it very hard even to this day. When I moved up to New Hampshire on an attempt at ‘geographical relocation’ in an effort to leave my foibles behind, I didn’t really sing much at all on my gigs. Sure I’d done some back-up vocals in most of the groups I played in but I was still never really that good. I could just about cover my parts and that was it. The drummer I was playing with at the time in Austin had even moved up to New Hampshire for a while and he was doing most of the singing so that delayed my stepping out front to the mic even further. It was when he decided to move back to Austin; Jeff Hodges was the drummer’s name; that I made the decision to shoulder the singing duties and get to work. I was truly awful in the beginning. I was so bad at hitting the right pitch that I had to play the melody line while doing the song just to be able to hit the notes correctly and for the guitar to be as reinforcement to my pitch problems. Argh, I was truly horrible back then. But I persevered and slowly my elocution and cadence got better and my pitch problems started to improve too. Now at least I can carry a tune but I’m not a crooner even though I wouldn’t mind that. Love the crooners. Near the end of the night for our first encore I decide to play this brand new song I’ve written that requires me to sing in falsetto the first couple of verses and chorus. The guitar part is also very delicate and I have John playing brushes as well. I know I can do this song here at the Sportsmen’s cuz’ the crowd is a listening crowd and there won’t be the undercurrent of conversation beneath my attempt to project a somber mood for this song. Even today when I see a solo artist on stage and while they’re performing the crowd is just talking away and hardly giving the person any kind of attention, my heart goes out to them cuz’ it’s just so hard to soldier through that environment. I know it applies to different situations and maybe that’s just me trying to impress my standards of performing in their case. Where I’m trying to connect with the audience and communicate with them and I aspire for their attention, some musicians are there just to provide background music and that’s it and the voices and conversations don’t bug them at all. I don’t know if I could ever adopt that way of thinking or be that ‘worker-kind’ of mentality. Different strokes for different folks. I just have to get out there and give it everything I’ve got cuz’ besides this being who I am and what defines me as a person, it’s food for my soul and it’s what I truly love to do. Am I being self-absorbed again?

Photo courtesy of Joel Naphin

Photo courtesy of Joel Naphin

The song, Drifting Away, goes off pretty good since I have yet to really work out all the parts, the phrasing and the melody lines to it plus given that I’m doing this live is a whole nuther’ matter. I can sit by myself and sound pretty good but when I get in front of people or get on stage it’s a different mental landscape and all these new variables come into the equation and I start having issues at adjusting. Like I said, I have to work at this. But it comes off good and I’m pleased with the results.
The Sportsmen’s Tavern is a venue I look forward to when I see we’re going there and the people there are part of it too. It’s a great place to play and I hope I get to return there for a long time. The next two days are off so we’ll leisurely work our way over to Manchester for the Hungry Tiger.
‘The road it lasts forever and the party never ends’

Showing 2 comments
  • David Helmbrecht

    Really cool story look forward to seeing you play Colorado again Safe Travels to Y’all

  • connie

    Great write-up! We LOVE the Sportsmen’s and the family who run it in Buffalo! I don’t have my own website, so I posted my husband’s who is a jazz musician. He and his fans love it there, too! Thanks for telling your fans about this jewel of a honky-tonk that makes everyone happy!

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