Opening Night at The Ready Room

April 3, 2014

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26 is the oldest I’ve ever been, but it’s still a young age, right? If all things go well, God willing, I’m less than 1/3 of the way through this life thing. That said, when I see a sign at the door like this, my first thought is “I’m too old for this shit.”

Let’s back up! I went to a show last night at St. Louis’ newest venue, The Ready Room. The venue, located in The Grove neighborhood, accommodates 800 folks, and is run by the same people who brought you The Firedbird. You can read more of those types of details in this article.

My expectations for The Ready Room were very high, as I was basically hoping for it to be the Mississippi Nights replacement that St. Louis has needed since its closure in 2007. I don’t care much for The Pageant (capacity 2,300), and I’ve seen too many shows there that would have been better served in a smaller venue.

I showed up to The Ready Room around 8:30, the time the first band was supposed to start, and easily found free street parking just a few minute walk from the venue.

LINE & FIRST IMPRESSION

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I knew the show wasn’t sold out, but I expected it to be crowded. What I didn’t expect was the long line to get in.

This line, maybe 50 people strong, moved at a quick-enough-but-not-quite-fast speed and I was inside the venue in 15 minutes. They expedited the entrance process by having IDs checked while you were standing in line instead of at the door. This was a good move.

The process could definitely be faster, but it could also definitely be worse. I just wasn’t expecting the line. Next time I will… or more likely next time I’ll aim to show up after the first opener has already finished.

When I got in, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the layout, or the bar, or the colors or even the music. It was the smell (not pictured). The Ready Room, for presumably obvious reasons, smelled like fresh paint.

It’s not fair to knock a new place for being new, but I like my concert venues to smell like smoke, body odor, and spilled booze. These last 2 things will come with time, but let’s talk about the first one: smoke.

I don’t smoke, but I think concert venues should smell like smoke, and that people should be allowed to smoke in them. You may disagree, and probably for good reason. But there’s one thing that we can all agree on: e-cigarettes look ridiculous, and probably are ridiculous. If you’re going to be a no-smoking establishment, you should probably just be a no-smoking establishment. It occurred to me that e-cigarettes probably provide cover for people smoking less legal substances though? So, maybe it’s an upside for those people.

Anyway, there were a lot of people smoking e-cigarette type devices at this show, helping neither the smell of the venue, nor their own appearance. Back to the review…

BAR

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The first thing you see when you walk into the Ready Room is this bar. One of my favorite things about The Firebird (also, Off Broadway) are their reasonably priced 24 oz PBRs. I am happy to report that these are also available, for the price of $5, at The Ready Room.

They also have a good variety of craft beer, ranging from New Belgium to Schlafly, and a few breweries in between. I would like to see a bit larger local selection, but I got a PBR & a New Belgium Shift over the course of the night, so who am I to judge? Part of the lack of selection could be due to the fact that the venue would much rather serve cans than bottles, and local craft cans aren’t yet too common.

One thing that this bar doesn’t have enough of is the ability to serve a near-capacity crowd in between sets.

My first drink order, in between the first opener and second, went smoothly enough, maybe a 5-10 minute wait. This is an acceptable amount of time to wait. My second drink order, in between the second opener and Of Montreal, was a disaster.

When the second band ended, I got in line, where I stood for 30+ minutes. I don’t know exactly how long I was in line, but I know that Of Montreal had started playing around the same time I finally got my drinks.

I say line, but really it was a cluster of people all fighting to get a space at the bar, and trying to get the attention of the bartenders. Off Broadway recently switched away from this system to an actual line system and I think their service quality has increased greatly as a result. At least when you’re standing in a line, you have an idea about how long it might take for you to get a drink. When you’re in a cluster, it’s ambiguous and frustrating.

This is a fault of the venue, and not a fault of the bartenders, who were working their asses off in an efficient manner.

There needs to be a second bar at this venue. Maybe one which only serves beer and only takes cash, to reduce strain on the other one. You can’t serve drinks to 800 people in 30 minutes from one 30 foot bar. My recommendation for location: next to the merch setup to the right side of the stage. It’s out of the way and there’s plenty of room (see next diagram).

LAYOUT, LOOK & LIGHTING

Rather than describing the layout, I’ve made this rough map. This map is not to any kind of scale, and may not be accurate at all, but I’d like to use it for reference:

layout

I like the layout. It’s got a good feel to it. The separation between the bustle of the bar and the concert room is admirable (I know that I’ve suggested getting rid of it, with a second bar, like a jerk). Things flow well between the two rooms though, and there was never congestion going from one to the other.

The place looks like it will age into being a good concert venue. The green/blue color paint (yes, the paint I complained bout earlier, like a jerk), is a good color. My favorite aesthetic feature of the venue is the exposed black ceiling beams across the whole venue.

The tables are a nice concession for people who like to sit at shows, and they aren’t in the way of anything.

I think the venue feels smaller than it actually is, and I mean that as a compliment to the space.

There’s a lot of room to the sides of the stage though, and those spots seem to have kind of sloppy & muddled acoustics.

Here’s my last big gripe: There are cool exposed light fixtures on the sides to the left and the right of the stage. During the opening bands, they were too bright, to a distracting degree. You can see them (or their effects) in all of my pictures pre-of Montreal (Below, and in “The Show” section).

I was worried that they didn’t have a dimmer setting, and that it was going to be like this the whole night. Fortunately things got darker when of Montreal came on.

Dark rooms are essential for good shows. They make the audience talk less, and a quieter audience makes for the appearance of a better band. A quiet audience also makes for the appearance of better soundboard operations. During the second set, the vocals weren’t coming through loud enough, the room was too bright, and the audience was too loud. These factors made it hard to enjoy what otherwise seemed like a performance I think I could have liked a lot more.

THE SHOW

I’ll wrap up the venue comments in a bit, but I saw a great show last night, and I should probably write a bit about that first.

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Local band Middle Class Fashion opened the evening off. I’m pretty “meh” on a lot of local bands (I’m sure that’s due more to the lack of effort on my part rather than the lack of quality of the local scene!), but I appreciate the gesture of having one be the first to play in this new venue. I also appreciated even more the fact that Middle Class Fashion appears to be very good. They are a 4 piece band, featuring a couple keyboards, a bass player and a drummer. Despite the no-guitar lineup, the songs were pretty rocking. The female-vocal led group sounded well put together, and I’d like to see them again in the future.

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The second band, Ortolan, was also female lead — three times over in fact. I had never heard of them before, and I had a bit of a hard time hearing them during this set. Vocals were particularly soft on the first song, but as the show went on, things either got better, or my ears adjusted. This band was a little more folksy, which I’m all about. I’m grabbing both of their CDs today, and I hope they come to St. Louis again as a headliner so I can get a better feel for their sound.

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The sets ran on time all evening, and of Montreal came on as scheduled at 10:30 PM. The band took the stage, minus lead singer Kevin Barnes, and a masked man came triumphantly to the stage to give a funny, silly, kind of dark speech to introduce him. This theatrical flourish would be repeated before the encore, and supplemented with other theatrics throughout the show.

Sometimes, things like this can take up too much time, and I’ve read recently of of Montreal shows that were criticized for being more about the theatrics than the music. This was not the case during this show, which I think struck a wonderful balance between the two. The production was good, but the music was the star of the show and it was incredible. There was only one costume change, and no nudity, male or female.

The 6 piece band stormed through the best parts of their 6 most recent albums, though they only played 1 song from False Priest (Coquet Coquette), and completely omitted 2012’s Paralytic Stalks. They pulled heavily from Skeletal Lamping & Hissing Fauna, as well as their most recent release, Lousy with Sylvianbriar. They couldn’t have played a set that was tailored better to my desires as an of Montreal fan. The most notable omission of the night, to me, was “Wraith Pinned To The Mist And Other Games”, but once your song is remade for an Outback Steakhouse commercial, maybe you don’t need to play it live anymore. There were a few other songs I would have liked to hear, but when you’re working from such a large catalogue of great work, these things are more than understandable.

Lighting and sound were both wonderful for the duration of the set. The show was loud, and every instrument sounded great. I look forward to seeing this band again, hopefully at the same venue.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are no perfect venues, especially on opening night, but The Ready Room is off to a pretty good start by my estimation. My only 2 real gripes are that there should be another bar and that the lights should be dimmed during the openers. The “venue smell” I desire will show up eventually. Sound systems in new spaces are complicated, and I’m confident that the sound for opening bands will get better.

I’ll be back to see Mates of State in 2 weeks and I’ll have another, and hopefully shorter write-up then!

Here are some more pictures:
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One Response to “Opening Night at The Ready Room”


  1. […] at St. Louis’ new venue, The Ready Room. They were touring with Of Montreal at the time, and when I wrote-up a review of the show, they got but a single paragraph of mention. Fortunately, I followed through and picked up their […]


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