Save Our Stages. Support some of our favorite independent concert venues.

Raised Rowdy GANG GANG

Nick Tressler, Sara CustanceKatie Vorderer, and Stacie Hestand

Independent venues are important to all of us at Raised Rowdy. Without the affordable GA tickets that independent venues offer, we would never be able to “front row or don’t go” at the regularity that we do. Without the intimacy that independent venues provide, we wouldn’t get a chance to chat, get merch signed and take pictures with our favorite artists after almost every show that we attend. Without independent venues, we wouldn’t get the chance to see up and coming artists with small audiences and feel it in our chest when they tell a sold out arena “I remember playing at the small local venue here” years later. With all the uncertainty in the world today, we can’t help but think about these places that feel like our home away from home. Whether it’s the bartender who knows your drink before you order it, the security guard who visits when you’re waiting in line two hours before doors open, or the promoters who have a knack for finding talent early, the people at independent venues are part of our country music family as much as any of the artists we love. A few members from our team wanted to share some of our own personal favorite venues.

Joe’s On Weed Street – Chicago, IL

Photo from Venue’s Facebook Page

I will never forget the first time that I went to Joe’s on Weed St in Chicago. It was in 2014 and Eric Church had announced a six city-two night tour to honor the venues that supported him early in his career the week that The Outsiders came out. It was a free concert that you had to win your way into and after getting the busy signal at my local radio station no less than 200 times, a friend and I found out we were the right number caller. That night changed concerts for me. I was standing maybe three rows from the stage surrounded by people who were called out by Church for being familiar faces that had been there from the beginning. I was under 21 for all of his previous appearances, but the second hand experience I had watching the people around me for which that was true made me want to be the type of person who found artists early and supported them along the way. I can’t even guess how many concerts I’ve been to Joe’s since then but I’m sure it’s more than most people go to in a lifetime. I have so many incredible memories of this place whether it’s the time that Dustin Lynch rode through the crowd in an inflatable raft, the time I saw Ashley McBryde for $5 on a summer Monday night or when Dierks Bentley brought Charles Barkley onstage as a surprise guest. While these stories stand out as some of the most memorable, there are so many more where I’ve shared  tequila shots with an artist after their set and had a genuine connection to the person behind the music or where I met some of my best friends waiting in line. Joe’s is just a special place. -Katie

The Dusty Armadillo – Rootsville, Ohio

Photo from Venue’s Facebook Page

The Dusty Armadillo is a proud Honky Tonk in Rootstown Ohio.  It is known for having a widely loyal fan base of locals and people that will travel for hours to see their favorite up and coming artist play headlining shows.  Many artists that have grown to be #1 chart topping players in Country music have been through their low head room stage and beer soaked floors.  This bar is a great time every time you go and you know that if they book an act it is bound to be a good time.  Oftentimes larger artists will sell out quickly due to the venue’s storied history of getting who is next right.  Their food is barroom staples and so is their selections of shots.  They do their best to make patrons feel at home. Not much more you could ask for in a Country venue.  Authentic Country vibe, great music and the ability to get up close and personal with the show or the bar. – Nicky T

Bank of New Hampshire Pavillion – Gilford, NH

Photo from Venue’s Facebook Page

Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, NH is without a doubt my favorite venue in New England. The venue formerly known as ‘Meadowbrook’ (still known as such to many locals) is a 9,000-seat amphitheater located on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. For many years the venue was family-owned and operated however due to greater demand it is now officially run by Live Nation, but still has that small town feel. Due to the drastic seasonal changes and the fact the venue is open to the conditions, the amphitheater is not equipped to run during the winter months which means all events are typically scheduled between May and September. I have seen hundreds of up-and-comers and national acts on the main stage over the years including Luke Combs, The Cadillac Three, Chris Stapleton, Ray Fulcher, Willie Nelson, Jobe Fortner, Jake Owen, and Eric Church. In addition to the main stage acts, the ‘Magic Hat Stage’ located just inside the venue doors, has become a favorite stop for me. The side stage is open before and after all shows and features a local artist from the surrounding area. Like most Rowdies, looking for the next big thing is always on my mind and this has become a great way to do just that! There are plenty of other activity stations set up to keep the concert-goers busy when entering the venue early. From wine tasting, prize wheels, seat upgrade raffles, misting booths for those hot summer nights and plenty of food and drink vendors for all. VIP seats and upgrade perks have been revamped making the VIP experience one-of-a-kind as well. Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of the venue however, is the tailgating experience. There are multiple lots and levels available for people to choose from and each one is a unique experience. I’ve thrown down in every lot and can’t say there is a bad one in the bunch. Many times we will meet up with the same groups from previous events and pick up right where we left off; corn hole, music blasting, and BBQ for everyone to share. We’ve had staff join in the shenanigans year after year and we’ve even had the artists make their way to our tailgate a few times! My crew agrees, Bank of NH Pavilion is our favorite place to tailgate and enjoy a great show close to home but the fans aren’t the only ones who find this to be one of the best venues around. Many of the artists who have played here rave about the amenities and the hospitality. From the classic New Hampshire lobster rolls and the in-ground swimming pool to the treehouse green rooms and vintage bicycles. Definitely missing our ‘Meadowbrook’ fam but can’t wait to be back there soon! -Sara

The Emerald Isle – Chicago, IL

Photo from Venue’s Facebook Page

The Emerald Isle is a local spot on the far northwest side of Chicago in Edison Park. It’s proximity to large local venues has made it one of my favorite stops after leaving a concert on the type of night when I’ve wanted to stay out but was also looking for a low-key vibe. The Isle consistently books artists that we love and nods to this by flying a Raised Rowdy flag during many of their performances. They have. Artists typically take over a weekend residency which gives them a chance to feel at home while they’re in town. The bar has always proudly displayed the gig posters from past performers and a recent mural including some of their favorite acts shows that this is a place that builds close relationships with its artists. Since this place is such a sanctuary for musicians, we asked a few of them to tell us how they feel about The Isle. Payton Taylor says, “There is a spirit of homecoming alive at The Isle. As a songwriter, it is so beautiful to walk into a club where you know that at its heart- it serves as a haven for music lovers and as a haven for the music creators.” Warren Garrett tells us, “for me The Isle is the heart of country music in Chicago. I love playing there and the friends I’ve been lucky enough to make while I was at it.” Trent Glisson shares “Emerald Isle has done an incredible job providing a platform for independent artists to show the city of Chicago their music.” Ben Chapman shares, “The Isle is the best acoustic venue I’ve had the pleasure of playing. Dave and the staff are always so welcoming, can’t wait to get back up there!” -Katie

Jergel’s Rhythm Grill – Warrendale, PA

Image from Venue’s Website

Jergels Rhythm Grill in Warrendale PA has been home to many great Country acts, bike nights and a ton of Rock shows. But we are going to focus on their Country selection here. With a large bar on both levels, a quality sound system and tech crew, and the artists merely feet from the patrons in the front row, this venue is my go-to landing spot in the Pittsburgh region.  With a range of shows for everyone’s personal tastes and some of my favorite moments in concerts I have ever been to, this venue never disappoints. Whether it is a likely sparse crowd or a sold out show the staff handled your needs with care and the music is top notch.  While it is not a traditional Honky tonk it turns into one when the right crowd is there for a show. Some favorite shows of mine that I caught there were Jon Pardi, Ashley McBryde, The Cadillac Three and when Luke Combs played acoustic for about 35 patrons on a wintertime Tuesday night. The food is excellent bar food and I never hesitate to grab a beer or 6 from their well maintained draft lines.  The bartenders know who their regulars are and make a point to thank you for coming back or make light conversation when time allows.  If you ever find yourself in Pittsburgh, this slightly northern suburb venue is a great place to catch a show with a few hotels only a short ride away. -Nicky T

Club Cafe – Pittsburgh, PA

Image from Venue’s Facebook Page

Located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s South Side, Club Café is a small, intimate venue with a capacity of just over 100 people. It has live music nightly and brings in a multitude of talented artists from various genres, including blues, jazz, soft rock, and reggae, as well as supporting local musicians. As far as country music goes, they tend to feature artists that fall under the branch of Folk or Americana. That can also include artists that have larger followings in other parts of the country but may not have enough in the Pittsburgh area to make having a show at a bigger venue feasible. For instance, Hayes Carll has played there the past few years to a room packed full of fans singing every word of his songs back to him. Getting to experience his show in that intimate of a setting would be hard to come by in Texas, for example, and it only happens here because of small venues like Club Café. Other favorite acts such as Brent Cobb and Daniel Donato were scheduled to play there before COVID-19 hit and we hope to see them there once venues are allowed to reopen. Another unique feature of the venue is that it will frequently host two shows in one night: one as an early show starting at 6 or 7 p.m., and then again as a late show starting at 9 or 10 p.m. These flexible hours enable fans who live outside the city to make it to a show during the work week, where they might not otherwise be able to make it in time. There’s also a full beer/wine/cocktail menu and a kitchen that serves snacks and sandwiches. – Stacie

Obviously independent venues mean a lot to our team and we want to help in any way we can. The personal connections that we’ve made in these places are at the heart of Raised Rowdy. We’ve attached a link to support legislation that can help save the independent music venues that we’ve mentioned as well as the venues that have touched the lives of our readers. We encourage you to support your own local venues through virtual tip jars if they have the option and if you are able. 

https://www.nivassoc.org/take-action

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