Much of the place looks the same. The relatively roomy stage, the gritty industrial interior, the neon signs, the black bar counter, the four-tops, the dim lighting. But what separates River Run Roadhouse from its previous occupant, the decades-old J&J’s Blues Bar, just north of downtown, is the vibe. In place of that one titular style of music, the newly opened River Run wants to do a little bit of everything, including indie-rock. A couple of weeks ago, the loud and rowdy Jack Thunder & The Road Soda and The Fibs played. This weekend, it’s the dreamy and semi-countrified Igneous Grimm, powerful alt-Americana rockers Siberian Traps, and Dallas’ Tornup & Berto G.
“Blues is great … but I think the bands are just going to get younger and younger,” said Elizabeth Honea, who with Dave Cummings, formerly of House of Blues, is booking the bands. “You’ve got to keep up with that scene, keep it fresh and interesting.”
River Run is co-owned by childhood chums and fellow Paschal High alums Don Stephan and Robert Holt, who thinks young people are vital to the success of any business, especially music: “Whether you’re talking this business, church work, or Microsoft, if you don’t introduce young people to your place, you don’t have very many more years before you’re wondering what’s going on.”
Should The Where House or nearby Lola’s Saloon be afraid? “What’s wrong with having another place to go to,” Holt said. “I love Lola’s. [Co-owner] Brian [Forella] and those guys are awesome, [and] The Where House, but they’re only so big. … We’re not in competition with those guys. I feel like we want to complement them.”
After JJ’s long run, Jim Schusler, owner of both the club and the building, stepped away from the business end, turning the 3,000-square-foot spot over to Nos Bar. After a couple of months, Nos was no mas, replaced by the return of JJ’s … until Schusler got out again. After the place had sat dormant a few months, he ran into Holt, who welcomed the chance to jump into the live music scene –– he’s been running the hospital district Irish pub Finn MacCool’s for the past 11 years.
“We feel like [River Run is] in a great spot,” Holt said. “I like music, I like going to hear it, but this place is set up for it, and it’s got such a history of music. We want to continue that.”
Holt and company have made several additions, in particular a 1,000-square-foot patio on the west side, bringing River Run’s total occupancy to about 300. The music will be limited to Friday and Saturday nights for the immediate future and will definitely not be exclusive to indie-rock. Country, metal, the blues –– it’s all fair game. “You can love music without bowing down to the god of capitalism and commercialism,” Holt said. “That’s why the eclecticism. We want to try to cater to as many of our customers as possible.”
River Run Roadhouse (937 Woodward St., 817-420-9166) is open 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
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