Going to the roadhouse

We walk in and take a seat at a circle table ringed with padded stools. We settle on down, order the first round and try to get a read on what we’ve got ourselves into. It’s a Saturday Night At The Roadhouse, and we’re here to catch a dose of its prized and powerful medicine.

There are differences between nightclubs and roadhouses. A nightclub is urban; a roadhouse is relatively rural. A nightclub is surrounded by curbs; a roadhouse is often surrounded by weeds. A nightclub will be jazzy and bluesy, while a roadhouse will inevitably drift toward country honk. A nightclub will sell lots of cocktails, while the roadhouse sells tons of beer.

A roadhouse is at its best on Saturday night. That’s usually when the juke-joint medicine flows abundantly. It’s feeling pretty right on this Saturday night. All the elements that evoke that good old-fashioned roadhouse groove are here and in perfect combination—elements like a good bar, a good band and enough people so you and your date are never solo on the dance floor, but not so many people that your space gets violated.

An hour after our arrival, the hullabaloo comes together. Two couple cracked the dance floor a couple of tunes ago, and now there’s a lively little dance-fest going in front of the stage. The band, a rockin’ blues outfit, is very good, and their guitar man is solid. He’s all dolled-up in a black suit that tells us the man is very serious about playing party blues music. Those of us on the congregational dance floor have to say “Right on, brother” and “May your sweet ringing tones motivate in ways that will lead to our various thirsts being quenched.

We go back to our station for fresh beer. At a nearby table, we spy one of the classic characters of the Roadhouse Experience, a Stranded Sister of the Night. She’s wriggling in her chair, and obviously dying to get up and dance with her male companion, who has already decided that he’s not dancing. You gotta feel for these marooned ladies, itching as they are to get on up and make their hip-slinging contribution to the evening.

Then there are the young male Super Fans at the front table who are there to watch every note being picked by the guitarist, and the semi pie-eyed codgers in the back who would be drinking and playing video poker no matter who was on stage, and the band manager at the bar who nurses a drink and stares off into the night wondering where the hell everybody is.

They’re all players in The Roadhouse Show this Saturday night, and all heading for a multi-Bayer Sunday morning.

This column first appeared in the RN&R on Oct. 15, 1997.