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Broadway Joe's: A Rock N Roll Show
by Jeff Czum
Local venue hosts a big party before Thanksgiving
“Don’t Talk To Broadway Joe” is a sign that still hangs behind the bar, a reminder of the club’s founder Joe Divencenzo, who opened the place in 1974 to showcase his love of local talent. Broadway Joe’s circa 1974 was a booze and music lover’s dream that by the late 1990s evolved into a stomping ground for classic rock bands and jam bands all over the city.
Today, current owner Bryan Parker is on a mission to take it even further and have Broadway Joe’s become the beating heart for the music community of Buffalo.
“I believe life experience is what makes a bar successful. I started out around 30 years ago at a place called The Red Mug in Williamsville. I did everything from dishwashing to bar backing. Eventually I got hired at another place called Sutter’s Saloon and that’s where I met my bartender mentor, Danny Hamilton. He took me under his wing and taught me how to bartend. I picked up a lot of good skills from the guy.”
In 2009 Parker tried buying PJ Bottoms farther up Main St., but negotiations fell through. “I walked into Broadway Joe’s and a buddy of mine who worked there explained the bar was for sale. I ended up buying Broadway Joe’s instead,” said Parker. “I never liked Broadway Joe’s until I bought it. I wasn’t a fan of the shows there, wasn’t my thing. It had a lot of character but it wasn’t cohesive.”
Parker made moves to get the club closer to his idea of a good music venue. He replaced the sound system, hired new staff, built relationships with music promoters who shared his vision, and created a better atmosphere.
“I had to make sure the people who come into the bar are happy, that the bands that play are happy and want to come back. I’m generally pleased with my staff and the way everything is run. When a show is done, no matter if there are 15 people or 100 people, the bands feel good. They like being there. I know a lot of places in New York City where they tell bands ‘when you’re done, pack up your stuff and get out.’ That’s not what Broadway Joe’s is about.”
While Broadway Joe’s is currently known for metal, punk, and generally the hardest of rock, Parker doesn’t want to dig himself into that exclusively.
“We want to diversify the local music scene. We want to ignite a sense of unity. We’ve branched out and now do a lot more electronic, hip-hop, and even dubstep shows. We also want to unify local bands and bring them together on our stage. We have a big metal and hard rock following and what we want to do is get more of the local shows. Bringing bands together not just because they might be supporting a national headliner but because they want to play together and support each other. You know how it is. It can get a little ‘catty.’ We want to eliminate that.
“We actually have a benefit coming up for one of the local metal “super fans” (Brian Hullin). We’re doing a benefit for his family. He has two children that are ill, and with Christmas coming, we want to support this guy who has supported every venue and every band that he could. We’ll have the old school stuff he likes to the newer metal, so it’s going to be a big event on December 13th. We’re getting donations from labels and local places in Buffalo to raffle off just to help this guy out with his medical bills and everything else.”
A parade of local bands supporting a local music fan sends a strong signal to area musicians and music lovers.
“Yes. Absolutely. It’s going to be a real big deal to us. It’s the direction we want to go in. We were doing a lot of nationals when I first signed on, and I liked them, they were good. We’ve had some huge names that people wouldn’t expect to get into Broadway Joe’s. Bands like Alestorm and a band called Skeletonwitch. One of my favorite stories about our place has to do with a Swedish metal band called Sabaton. This band is huge over in Europe and is used to playing festivals for 40,000 people or more. On there first US tour, they played Broadway Joe’s and said it was one of their favorite shows of the tour. That was really cool to hear. A band with that big of a following comes to buffalo to play a 300 cap room and ranks it one of the best.
“It’s great to have big bands play, but without the local scene and the local bands that support the national bands, you don’t have much.”
In addition to developing the music further, Parker has some major club renovations in mind.
“We’re going over all our plans for our remodel in 2015. We want to go up to 500 capacity [about double]. We’re going to expand into our big backyard. I want to have a better stage experience for the bands but still maintain intimacy for the fans. Buffalo is very limited when it comes to 500 cap venues and we want to help open it up.
“We’re careful not to lose the atmosphere of the bar though. We’ve gone over a few remodeling ideas that just weren’t Broadway Joe’s. We want to keep the Dive Bar appeal and just give it an upgrade. We’ve always been upgrading over the years with everything from our beer cooler behind the bar to the sound system.”
Parker’s been fortunate that he and his staff are able and willing to do a lot of the work on club.
“If you’re not handy, you’re going to end up paying a lot of money for someone else to fix it up. I’m lucky to have a great staff to help me out. I’ve even had some of our customers come in and help clean up when it’s needed. I’ve mopped my fair share of disgusting bathrooms. I bring all the skills I’ve learned to this job from dishwashing, bar backing and even security I did for an exotic dancer one time where I traveled the country and learned from different people in different places. I don’t like to have that cocky attitude that some new bar owners have. I like to learn from everybody. There is no ego to it. Suck all the knowledge in you can.”
Broadway Joe’s is already branching out from its strictly metal mode.
“We have an open mic Comedy night on Mondays and Karaoke on Tuesday nights,” said Parker. “It’s great to keep it eclectic. A bar known for it’s metal and harder music can also host these things. It’s good to have diversity; the most successful people I know are that way.
“It’s a lot of fun. Even one of my promoters has tried comedy open mic and got heckled. We had a Montreal metal band stay for karaoke after their show. They loved it. This isn’t your Mother and Fathers Broadway Joe’s anymore.
“Look for some big stuff. We’ve got some plans for 2015 to really do some unique things for the community and local music. We just want to give back to the people who made this bar what it is. I’ve always said that if I can give back to somebody, I’ll do it. I know what it’s like to be in a tough spot. I’ve been homeless and had stretches of down times like everyone goes through, and now I have the ability to own a place that can give back to people. That’s important to me, especially in the music community of Buffalo. Every single venue in buffalo has their own niche. They all have a role to play, and Broadway Joe’s is no different. We cater to different styles of music and I believe all the cubs should be working for a collective goal in Buffalo, which is to improve the music scene. There is nothing wrong with friendly competition.”
Broadway Joe’s has put its unique stamp on Buffalo and offers artists and fans a great music experience. November 26th, the night before Thanksgiving, is one of the biggest party nights of the year. It’s also Bryan Parker’s birthday and Broadway Joe’s plans to make it a memorable night with performances by Super Killer Robots, Freeek, Poison in the Nest and BlueShift. Show starts at 9pm.blog comments powered by Disqus
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