Originally created 07/05/96

Clubs try torevive live music



Lauren Rajczak perched atop a speaker in the now-defunct Garden City Music Hall a couple years ago, listening to a little-known band play for 300 people.

After the concert, she and her friends got the band's play list and autographs.

The band is the now international chart-burning Bush.

Ms. Rajczak realized that Augustans could pay a little and see bands that would one day hit it big.

"Augusta has such potential to be a venue for live bands. Every band before they break could play here," said Ms. Rajczak, now the manager of Caffeine, a 3-month-old club on Broad Street.

Caffeine has joined the Red Lion Pub on Walton Way in trying to revitalize Augusta's live rock music scene, which in the past year has been devastated by the closings of Garden City and Squeaky's Tip-Top.

The small club at 730 Broad St., with Volkswagen doors on the booths and a dance floor in the back, brings in mostly local and regional acts, such as Charleston-based Jump Little Children and 3 lb. thrill, an Atlanta band featured on MTV's 120 Minutes who'll play July 12.

Across town, the Red Lion Pub attracts regional rockers, such as the Drag, Donkey, In Like Flynn and Skirt, and local bands People Who Must and Pine. The bar features live music four nights a week.

"The key is to try to accomplish getting local and regional bands that you think are going to get big," said Todd Friedel, co-owner of The Red Lion Pub. "So you try to get bands that are going to do well. But it's also a lot of luck."

Along with luck, Augusta's music scene needs support from live patrons.

"I think the live music scene has improved, but it's going to take a lot of people in Augusta to come out in droves," Ms. Rajczak said. "The local scene needs the support. It's going to die again if we don't add to it."

As far as urban and country music clubs go, some establishments occasionally get national acts to bring in the crowds, said Mike Gorman, of the Honky Tonk, but, normally just have house bands.

At Caffeine, crowds have ranged from seven people to almost 200. Despite the small numbers, Ms. Rajczak said her regular patrons will help the club survive as another outlet for live music.

At the Red Lion Pub, about 75 people came out last weekend to hear local band Uncle Woody. Mr. Friedel said Augusta's audiences won't support two music clubs, as the closings of Garden City and Squeaky's prove.

But it's tough to maintain a live rock music scene when people would rather venture to clubs such as the Soul Bar on Broad Street to meet people, drink and talk without having to compete with loud music.

With its high ceilings, tons of Godfather of Soul memorabilia, psychedelic Christmas lights and a collection of more than 600 compact discs, the club draws hundreds of people on weekends. The music varies from disco and hip-hop to classic funk and acid jazz.

"As simple as I can put it, the Soul Bar is a cool bar with good music and just a very funky atmosphere," said Tom Huffstetler, a bartender. "It's original, fresh and unique with a wide mix of people."

Squished up against friends near the bar, Kelly Graves talked and bobbed her head to the hip-hop music coming from speakers mounted on the wall.

"I come here because everybody else does and because I got sick of the other bars. I just like the feel of it here and the way it looks," she said. "This is the only bar like this in Augusta."

And once she and her friends got into the groove, the disc jockey threw in another CD.