What does a music venue really mean to a community? That’s a very difficult question to answer, but one that I want to try and tackle. Smaller venues have a tendency to attract fair-weather business owners, especially when the capacity of the venue isn’t 25,000 people where so many people go and word of mouth helps things grow much more quickly. As soon as a small venue begins losing money, most close up shop and disappear as a small blip on the musical map. Others though, help musicians and communities grow and as time goes on are sometimes taken for granted. When those things happen, it breaks my heart. As the hair band Cinderella put it, “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone.”
The value placed on a smaller venue though, that has helped foster the arts over a 20 year period, in my humble opinion, is immeasurable. Which brings me to my point, I want to talk to you about the Spillway Bar & Grill located in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
*This meme made the rounds as a viral post on Facebook.
The Spillway has seen many great acts take their stage over the years. Some are household names, like Kentucky’s current Country music King, Chris Stapleton. Who played Spillway with his band, The Jompson Brothers, before exploding onto the national stage with “Tennessee Whiskey” as a solo artist. You can even occasionally catch Black Stone Cherry’s Chris Robertson sitting in with his Dad, Steve, and his band Rusty Tymes.
The Spillway certainly has an impressive list of alumnists, see for yourself. Artists such as Shooter Jennings, Chris Knight, L.A. Guns, Pat Travers, Sunny Sweeney, Whitey Morgan, Faster Pussycat, Drowning Pool, SIMO, Dallas Moore, Austin John Winkler (Original lead singer of HINDER) , Bobby Amaru (Saliva), Cody Canada, Jasmine Cain, Struggle Jennings, Twang N Round, Bubba Sparxx, Billy Don Burns, Jesco White, Wayland, Texas Hippie Coalition, EmiSunshine and Wayne Mills…to name a few, have graced the Spillway stage.
Other acts you may not ever know their names or if you do, it may be as a member of another band. The point is, the Spillway has been a consistent home for quality music and I don’t want them to be one of those venues that people take for granted. I want to shine a light on this wonderful treasure and keep it a staple for at least another 20 years!
On a more personal note, some of my favorite music has originated from the Bowling Green area over the years. So I felt it would be a great idea to ask a few of those musicians and friends for quotes about the venue, the owner, the food and what the Spillway means to them.
A man that has inspired many, Mr. John King, has played the Spillway countless times. He fronted Sixth Floor, which recently reunited, as well as John King and South 75, Sons of the Revolution, and John King And The Mud River Revival over the years. John adds, “A staple for live music for the last two decades. Twenty years, always working towards making the music scene better. Congratulations to them all.“
Local radio personality at 98.3 The Edge and 105.3 The Point, Chris Bratcher, who happens to have hosted a local music show on Sunday nights for 10+ years, summed up his Spillway experiences nicely, “The Spillway has always been a great place to grab a beer, and definitely hear some good tunes. What sets them apart though, is the investment and the effort Robert and his family have put into The Spillway. Their work has really taken it to a level that rivals and outshines many venues in the region. Oh! And, it’s STILL a great place to just pop in and grab a beer! I mean, you gotta wash those wonderful wings down with something! Am I right?!“
Black Stone Cherry used the Spillway for their music video for “Cheaper To Drink Alone.” They ended that night with a free sold-out performance. So naturally, I had to see what they had to say. I spoke with guitarist Ben Wells and he had this to add, “Robert and the team at The Spillway are top-notch. The amount of heart and soul that he puts into that business is shown by the many years of success and new directions it’s headed! Here’s to 20 more years of serving Bowling Green!“
*Robert Baxter with Lzzy Hale and Joe Hottinger of Halestorm
Black Stone Cherry – “Cheaper To Drink Alone”:
One of the current bands that are making quite the name for themselves is Jericho Woods. I caught up with Josh Mitcham of Jericho Woods who had this to say, “Robert has always pushed to bring great, original entertainment to Bowling Green. He has always taken a lot of chances that have given bands an opportunity to grow. And….his wings are fantastic!” Hard to argue with that statement.
In fact, the Spillway is known for their wings as much as their passion for music. A fact that hasn’t been lost on me. I had the opportunity to bring the Atlanta band POYNTE up to the Spillway, where they played with Gravel Switch. I came for the music, but I stayed for the wings! Many folks will tell that The Spillway has the best wings in town, so even if music isn’t your cup of tea, stop by and enjoy the wings. You won’t be disappointed!
Let’s not lose focus here though, wings are great, but let’s not forget why we’re here and that’s to help spread the word about their upcoming celebration.
The Spillway is owned by Robert Baxter, Tiffany Baxter, Jason Jones, Wendy Jones and The Spillway is been managed by his Mom, Debbie Kieffer (Everyone calls her Momma). They will all celebrate their 20th anniversary on May 12th. The planned event will be free and features some of the best talent located in and around the Bowling Green area. There will be free food, free music and a cornhole tournament. It will also be an all ages event until 8 pm. Our picks on the day include No Deceit, Kyle and The Josephines. So make plans to spend the day at a true Kentucky treasure.
These folks are a shining example of the kindness and awesomeness of Kentucky’s greatest asset, her people. The staff is warm, friendly and always happy to flash a smile. You’ll feel welcome, that’s the basis of their customer service. Not many folks can back that up, but The Spillway always seems to deliver.
Be sure and stop by some time if you can’t make May 12th. I personally can’t wait to stop in and try their catfish basket!