This article is from the July 2012 issue of KC Stage
"It's five o'clock on a Saturday"... whoa, Billy Joel, back up a bit.... Let's keep it local.
It's five o'clock on a Wednesday, and the recordBar in Westport is already gathering a local clientele saving chairs and tables for a seven o'clock show ... 30 somethings to 60 somethings gathering after work. What's the deal? A phenomenon the likes of which I have never seen in this town when it comes to original music.
You see, at seven, Bob Walkenhorst, front man and main songwriter for the Rainmakers (recently reunited) along with Jeff Porter and Norm Dahlor from The Elders take the stage for two straight hours of original tunes that the crowd knows so well over the years that you will always catch several people singing along with the guys. It's addictive in a way.
Walkenhorst calls it a second family on Wednesday nights now. There is rarely a stranger in the crowd, and if it's your first time there, you will leave with several new friends who share a love of original music, written well, performed exquisitely and with so much energy that it will leave you wanting more. This is not the kind of audience that screams out "Stairway" to "Freebird" or "Margaritaville", although the guys throw in a few covers here and there just for the love of it, but not because they have to. They have over five hours of original music that suits the audience just fine. Jeff Porter is a fine writer in and of himself, too, on a par with Walkenhorst and is just as welcome to do his own stuff by the audience.
The cover charge is minimal, only five bucks, and week after week you never know what you are going to get. The songs change with the energy of the crowd. Something I've noticed about Walkenhorst is his ability to read the crowd and peg the next song to the wall. The band has their intuition on full blast and after attending these Wednesday night gatherings for the past several months, they have never been wrong in reading the crowd. No egos in the way, no hogging the spotlight, no one upmanship, just an amazingly seamless relationship with the audience and a sense of community and family. Walkenhorst calls it getting airborne ... the energy from the audience just takes them down the runway and off they go. It is a welcome feeling for any local musician in this town, the ultimate high for most musicians. Just this past Wednesday, Danny Cox was featured from 7 – 8 pm because he has a new CD and wanted to share it with this community. There are also occasional food drives for the Homeless Kansas City Schools Food Pantry, a charity near to Walkenhorst's heart.
They only play 7 – 9, so it is an early night for those of us with 9 – 5 jobs.
After talking with Mel Marsh, who has traveled 80 miles round trip almost every Wednesday for the past three years, Marsh thinks it is a great decompression for the middle of the week. He knows it is always there to rely on, unless the Rainmakers are out on tour. They recently returned from a trip to Norway about a month ago, so it might be a bit before they hit the road again. I figure they have to thaw out a bit after being 50 miles from the Arctic Circle.
Walkenhorst does not take this support lightly, and lovingly cradles the emotions in his hands as he knows how lucky he is that these people show up week after week. "Treat that with respect, but don't take yourself too seriously".
You can find more information on the recordBar online at therecordbar.com. I have to give kudos to a place that took this risk so many years ago and has stuck with it for almost a decade now. Reserve your next Wednesday night for a pleasant experience, and don't forget your dancing shoes. There is ample room for a dance floor, and as Marsh told me, "It is what music should be."
You can reach Jeanne Jasperse on Facebook or on kkfi.org.