A really good, thorough journalist would research the location at the corner of West Broad and North Allison streets and find out what was there before The Republic Restaurant and Bar. But a brief Google search didn’t turn up any answers, nor did a cursory review of their blog going back to June 2011, so in lieu of proper research, I’m just going to assume whatever was there before wasn’t important or iconic enough to warrant mention, which saves me the trouble of coming up with a clever intro tying the old into the new.
The J.O.B. played there this past Saturday night. Our show was almost derailed by an accidental double booking, which is a fairly common occurrence on the bar and restaurant circuit. These are small local businesses and having a dedicated booking manager just isn’t a luxury most are either willing or able to afford. It’s irritating. No one likes loading the trailer and then arriving at the venue only to find a couple of fat dudes playing Jimmy Buffet covers – itself an unappealing concept even if one hasn’t just spent an hour loading the trailer – because the owner’s nephew (the guy who will be working the door and most likely skimming off your take) was too lazy to find a Post-It note. That kind of disrespect should ideally be met with swift and merciless retribution of the lay-waste-and-salt-the-earth-in-your-wake variety, but in reality all you can do is accept it as a known risk and follow up early and often with whomever is handling booking.
Booking issues aside, the Republic easily rates as my new favorite place to play. Here’s why:
- Load-in. Right next to the stairs to the stage is a door to the street. Pull up, drop the ramp (nothing says Big Damn Rock Star like double parking the trailer), and head right in. No wheeling your gear through a minefield of tables, chairs and patrons. Oh, and about those stairs? There are all of four, maybe five. Or you could remove the railing from the front of the stage and just hand your gear up.
- The stage. As in, there’s an actual stage. It’s not huge, but it’s big enough to accommodate our four-piece band comfortably. More importantly, it’s a dedicated space for the band, so unlike at, say, Bison Crazy Legs, you’re not going to get there and find a half-dozen tables and chairs and maybe a pool table that needs to be moved before you can load in. And because it’s a good four feet off the ground, it’s unlikely that Drunky McFratboy is going to take a break from trying to roofie his date to go pick up your guitar.
- The sound. Not only is there a good sound system with monitors and subs, but there’s also a lovely fellow called Ricky Tubb to set it up and run it for you. As the resident sound person in the band, it’s nice to be able to sit back and just be the bass player. Having a house guy behind the board means he’s familiar with the room and what it sounds like and what might need to be tweaked from the point of EQ to keep things clear and balanced. And let’s not overlook not having to load a few hundred pounds of PA gear in and out of the trailer. That’s luxury.
There a some other nice things about the Republic as well that have nothing to do with being part of the band playing there. The staff is nice and the food is a cut above normal bar fare. I’d prefer a bit more garlic with my side of broccolini, but I’m not sure the guys who have to share the stage with me would agree. The ratio of gnocchi to shrimp in Jason’s order was a little heavy on the gnocchi side, and I have mixed feelings about a potato pasta with shrimp, but that didn’t stop me from finishing his plate for him. If nothing else, it’s nice to see a bar being more ambitious with their menu while keeping the prices reasonable.
As per usual, our good friend Santiago Prada opened for us, and also as per usual, he sounded great.
Our set was solid and the mix on stage was blissfully clear and even. The audience was a subdued crowd and beyond a few familiar faces, one made up mostly of random patrons. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, particularly on a Saturday night in May when there’s a whole lot of stuff going on around the city. Should this happen, here’s the mantra you need to keep chanting in the back of your head the entire night: just because they’re not screaming doesn’t mean they’re not listening. Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t, but as long as they’re not actively booing you, assume positive intent. Do what you came there to do and avoid at all costs the temptation to force a response by playing louder, faster, harder, etc. That never works. Ever. It’s worth far more to me to end the night knowing that I’ve represented the band and myself as a musician honestly and accurately.
Which is, in fact, exactly what we did.
See you at the next gig,
Tech notes: Most stages are basically big hollow boxes that have a tendency to trap low frequencies and clutter up your sound with what is often described as either ‘mud’ or ‘boom.’ If you’re playing without PA reinforcement this can turn into a kind of dull, low-frequency roar onstage since you have to play at a higher volume. As we had great PA support, I could run my amp at a much more reasonable level. I also normally stick my cabinets on an Auralex riser pad that decouples the cabs from the stage, so that helped, and any remaining boom I was able to mitigate with a narrow EQ cut around 40hz. If you don’t have a bunch of fancypants equipment like I do you can stick your cabs on a chair, roll off the bass knob on your amp just a little, and boost your mids just a smidge. No, you won’t be able to feel your fillings vibrate, but on the plus side, the audience has a better chance at actually hearing you. And for the love of all that is sweet and holy, if you have one of those ‘enhancer’ controls that adds bass and treble while cutting mids, do not, under any circumstances, turn it up.
Along those same lines, if your amp has a DI, be sure to set it to pre-EQ if you have the option. This keeps the DI signal from being affected by your EQ settings so you can tailor your sound for the stage and let the sound engineer handle how it sounds in the house. A two-minute conversation with the board op before a show to discuss how you want to sound will yield much better results than feeding him/her a signal he/she will just have to re-EQ down the line. If your bass has an active EQ circuit, try to go easy on the on-the-fly adjustments as that signal will be routed right to the PA, and as a soundman myself, I can tell you that the quickest remedy for that in a live situation is just to pull your whole fader down a few points.