The Westport Saloon aims to bring roots music back to Westport

westport saloon 01Kansas City’s The Westport Saloon (located in the former Dark Horse Tavern space at 4112 Pennsylvania) has only been open a scant few months, but it has a focus in mind: to spotlight each and every night of the week the incredible roots music that was crossing owner Travis Field‘s path.

“When we opened our doors in early September, it was my intention to offer American roots music in a high traffic area in Westport,” said Fields in an e-mail interview. “With our location, we have the opportunity to showcase these acts and this genre to people who are often coming to Westport as a destination, and then stumbling across original music that they wouldn’t have known to go out of their way for.”

The former general manager of Ernie Biggs Dueling Piano Bar had, over the past several years, begun booking roots acts on the Piano Bar’s off nights, as well as for the bar’s parking lot parties during events like St. Patricks Day. However, despite a strong focus and plan, Field wasn’t prepared for the work booking live music every night of the week entailed.

“While we had great local and regional acts, I quickly learned two things: It is hard to keep a room filled for an entire evening with just one or two performers a night, and keeping a room booked is a full-time job.”

westport saloonShortly after Jody Hendrix (of Them Damned Young Livers) hosted a record release party for Twenty Thousand Strongmen, the Saloon had a series of rough weekends, so Fields approached Hendrix and came up with a solid plan to benefit both him and the Saloon, as well as the local and regional acts that come through the bar. The last time the Westport area had a venue solely devoted to roots music was the Grand Emporium on Main, and that venerable establishment has been gone for nearly a decade.

“I saw the benefit of not only having someone who knows what they are doing booking acts, but also having multiple bands fill out a night,” says Fields. “Jody and I share the same vision and passion for music, and focusing on our own specific skill sets, he in booking and promoting, and myself in service and hospitality, I am very excited for what lies ahead for the Westport Saloon.”

“I came on board with game plan of mimicking the DIY punk show format, while focusing on bluegrass, blues, rockabilly, country, Americana and the rest of the music that falls underneath the general hillbilly sound umbrella,” Hendrix explains. “I mean — how many punk shows have you gone to that were empty? The punk scene fills their room with multiple band bills. If anyone has ever been to one of my shows, they know that when there are 3 or more bands on a bill (I pulled off 20-plus at Middle of the Map), you always have a full room.”

The trick is to make some money while nurturing a local community of artists. Hendrix wants the bands to be compensated fairly.

westport saloon 02“Our guarantees are fair, based on a bands ability to draw. We don’t pay bands out of the door cover — we pay the sound guy out of our cut, not the bands cut. We offer fair pay for short (45 to 90 minute) sets.”

Of course, this hasn’t been without its difficulties, with bands wanting to be the only act on the bill, taking home the entire door take, but that’s not how Hendrix sees the Westport Saloon. His view of the club is as more of an incubator for local talent and, according to Hendrix, it’s a process that seems to be working.

“We’re working with folks who want to build a scene, have some drinks, make a little cash, and ultimately nurture what’s naturally happening in our music community. The amount of quality bands that are coming out of the woodwork is astounding, and they only add to the deep-rooted circle of musicians that I’ve become acquainted with over the past ten years.”

For more information of the Westport Saloon and upcoming shows, like them on Facebook.