Several times during the Blues Traveler show last week at the Revolution Room, an acquaintance would lean over and say, “Little Rock has needed this for so long.”
Yes, it has -– “this” being a indoor music venue with a capacity approaching 600 people. And in the ever-growing River Market district, no less.
Sticky Fingerz — which is owned, like the Rev Room and the adjacent Rumba restaurant, by Chris King and Suzon Awbrey — can squeeze in 300, and Juanita’s Cantina Ballroom may hold slightly more. But at 300-or-so capacity, the quality of shows they can bring in is limited, as obviously is the space to accommodate the fans of those shows.
The Blues Traveler show was everything fans expected and then some — and so was the Rev Room, which was granted a fire code capacity of 550 people leading up to the show. With the ease we had in moving around the room all night, the Rev Room could have handled significantly more people.
As for the show, John Popper and Blues Traveler, which had just played Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheater on the way here and in June played the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee, played two-and-a-half hours with nary a moment’s chatter interrupting the music: They freely flowed one song to the next, with Popper occasionally adding some words about Little Rock needing to be called “Big Rock” — when haven’t we heard that? — lauding the crowd, and introducing the band during the group’s encore. While we thought Blues Traveler’s Riverfest show three years ago was pretty good, this blew that away in sheer quantity and quality of songs, from the recognizable hits that so many in the crowd sang along to, to drawn-out jams to even the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” near the end. Popper even unloaded his case of eight or so harmonicas to members of the audience during the wind-down portion of the show. His bandmates were excellent instrumentally and animated all night.
As for the room, which formerly was home to Club Coconuts and before that Banana Joe’s, acoustics were excellence, as were the sightlines to view the stage. Nearly every angle you took, whether on the floor in front of the stage or on the second level behind the pit, afforded a generally unobstructed view. Meanwhile, we easily maneuvered from the top level down through the pit or front stage area, occasionally making it as close as the three-deep line of fans on the floor, at least before the Corona and nature called and we began our maneuvering all over again.
By the encore, we were on the front row of the second level, which is about 30 feet from the stage, and the view was great.
Black and red are the predominant colors of the Rev Room. The entranceway from a door next to the entrance to Rumba restaurant is decorated with lamps lined with silver beads and red draperies on the ceiling. The silver-bead look is also used around the stage, and the red ball light fixtures that are found in Rumba are also used through the Rev Room. The bar in back was cranking all night, with a second cash-only bar closer to the fans watching from the upper level.
The Hosty Duo from Norman, Okla., who make regular visits to Sticky Fingerz, put on a rousing, rocking opening set that got the crowd geared. They were part White Stripes (though all male), part Texas honky tonk in a Cross Canadian Ragweed kind of way. Check out the Hosty Duo soon, if you haven’t already. Mike Hosty is one talented guitarist and songwriter.
Upcoming shows that should draw big crowds to the Rev Room, at 300 President Clinton Ave., are D.J. Irene on Friday, Aug. 4, and Whild Peach (Outkast’s funky backup band) on Aug. 5. See more on these shows in the “In the Clubs” feature on page 24.