The Little Venue That Could: Why Broadway Joe’s Deserves More Respect

This article was originally posted on The Metal on 7/21/15.

It’s hard to come across a band from the Western New York area who hasn’t played a show at Broadway Joe’s Bar and Grille. At the same time, it’s hard to attend a show in the Western New York area without hearing at least one person talking the venue down. “It’s too small”, “It’s poorly run”, “It’s shit”, are the usual complaints I overhear from various show goers. But I respectfully disagree with just about every bit of criticism I’ve ever heard about the place. That’s why I’m appointing myself the public defender of Broadway Joe’s in the Buffalo, New York metal scene’s courtroom.

bwayjoes With venues shutting down left and right in this area, both national and local metal acts in and around Buffalo are left with very few options. But for many years now, Broadway Joe’s has been there to host the shows that no one else will. Hundreds, probably thousands of metal acts by now have graced their stage and had successful shows. Over the last ten years, I’ve personally performed there in multiple bands as a drummer, guitarist and vocalist. Never once, have I had an issue with the staff or the venue itself. Sure, the room capacity is only 300, but if no other promoters are biting and the other venues in the area are either already booked or nonexistent, then why the hell wouldn’t you just appreciate what you can get and move on?

In recent years, I’ve seen both Soilwork and Shadows Fall play that room and realized that I prefer seeing bands of that caliber in a more intimate setting anyway. How many times have you gone to a show to see your favorite bigger band and had to deal with overpriced drinks, guard rails, huge crowds, a distant stage and constricting set times? At Bways, the drinks are cold and reasonably priced, the service is friendly, the headliners never get ordered off stage (unless they’re being big dicks), and the stage (your favorite band) is right in your face. Furthermore, shouldn’t the band members who come and go from the venue be the only critics with any merit? It’s kind of interesting how most of the people I hear trash talking this room aren’t in bands, nor do they have any experience working in, with or for bands (at least none that I’m aware of). I’m not saying I know the life story of every last show goer in this area, but I definitely keep track of who I see in bands and who I see working the rooms they play in. If you think you can put on a better show for a band coming through the area, then where’s your venue? Where’s your offer?

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Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to play in a bigger room in front of a bigger audience, but when the going gets tough, deal with it and make the best of the situation. Would you rather the shows not happen at all? Just this past Sunday night, I saw Psycroptic, Arkaik, Ovid’s Withering and The Kennedy Veil at Bways. Before that night, I had little to no experience with any of those bands. But it looked like a reputable tour with sick bands and I wanted to check it out. Evidently, the tour as a whole had been doing pretty poorly and their Buffalo date was nearly cancelled. But the folks at Broadway Joe’s kept their promise and gave them a room to play in. The attendance was a little disappointing but those who were there had a great time and I got into some great new music. I wish more people in the scene paid more attention to bulletin boards in bars, or wherever fliers are typically found and of course, social media. Sure, people work, have kids, are married, and naturally, there are usually multiple shows booked each night in this town, especially on weekends. But I know there are more of you out there who just aren’t making the effort for whatever the reason may be. I’ve been plugging reasons to attend shows in this area on this site for months now, and I’m nowhere near done.

I suppose the last point I’m going to make about Broadway Joe’s is this: If you have no experience with bands or running a place of business, don’t badmouth this room. These are great people doing great things, and I’ve never really heard too many bands complain. Most bands that play Bways are just happy they still got to play a fucking show, which is one of the most important parts of being in a band. People like Bryan Parker (owner), Joe Tonaus (promotions), Frank Short (go-to sound aficionado), the bartenders, bar-backs, etc. are helping ensure that we still have a scene to support.

Now I’m going to post a few more clips. Here are some tunes from bigger acts who have played Bways in recent years. WARNING: The footage below displays band members and show goers having a good time in a smaller venue. “Live show elitists” are urged not to expose themselves to this level of fun: