Owner and musician Mike Clark hoping new, larger, Beltline location on 12th Ave. S.W. will fill a niche and find a new audience for live music.
Mike Clark is sitting in the construction dusted, chair-and-table stacked insides of his new pride and joy, a second Mikey’s location on 12th Ave. S.W.
He’s taking a quick break, attempting to get a little lunch into his gullet as work continues rather feverishly on the bar, in an attempt to get it ready for Friday’s grand opening.
Clark, owner and proprietor of the original Mikey’s Juke Joint, the live, local blues and roots haven located just 11 blocks west of the new room, which is the old Blind Monk, has set himself an ambitious deadline to get it done and open.
And he’s determined to meet it, due largely to the anticipation that’s been there since the Monk closed and his plans were first announced.
“People in the neighbourhood have been stopping by or I go over to Safeway and they’re, ‘When are you guys opening?! Hurry up, would ya!’ ” the longtime local blues musician says and chuckles.
“They miss their local watering hole. Hopefully we can have that aspect as well.
“When I’m playing on the road, places like Buds on Broadway in Saskatoon, it’s a place to do both: listen to some tunes and hang out.
“So it’s not going to be a quiet concert hall, where people are going to hush you. That’s not what we’re looking for.”
No. It certainly won’t be that. With pool tables, dartboards, flat screens, plenty of seating, a patio, more than a dozen draft taps featuring a great selection of local brews, a full kitchen including a pizza oven, and, more importantly, a new wooden dancefloor and a large stage and soundsystem, the place should soon be a raucous and rocking Beltline destination.
They’re certainly kicking things off right, with a happy hour set by local legend Steve Pineo followed by what should be a sizzler of a show by young, rockabilly scamps Peter and the Wolves.
Prior to the opening, in the midst of putting the final touches on the new Mikey’s, and between bites, Clark was kind enough to speak with theYYSCENE.
Q: Let’s go with the most basic, fundamental question: Why?
A: Why not? (Laughs) Well, one of the reasons is that I do my Saturday jam over at the other place and people come it, can’t find a spot, leave or we’re full and there’s a lineup, so we need more room for that. I think there’s a need in this town for a venue that is the size we are — 172 (capacity) in here — that actually has a dancefloor and the main thing is live music. You’ve got the Ironwood, no dancefloor, but great acts … or the Blues Can’s a little bit smaller. So it fills that niche, I think. I’ve been looking at this spot for years — I used to run the jam here when it was Mike’s Pizza back in the late ’90s, early 2000’s — I always thought it was a good location, a good spot. So the opportunity came up, I got a smokin’ deal on the lease and stuff like that, everything was here, so it was a good opportunity, I thought.
Q: How many days a week are you planning on doing live music and will it be the same type of music that’s at the other Mikey’s?
A: Well, hopefully we’ll get to seven days a week, we’re not quite starting there. We’re going to do some different things, like I’m going to be doing a big band afternoon thing every second Sunday — I’ve got two different big bands lined up — so that’s different, we can’t do that over there. I’m thinking about doing a Latin music night — my chef is Mexican and so he’s got a big tie-in to that community, so that will be fun … We’ll do my Saturday jam over here. So that’s what we’re starting with anyways. The burlesque girls want to do some shows here, so we’ll probably do that, too. Hopefully we’ll get to that spot (at seven days), maybe look at doing music during happy hours on a regular basis, because that crowd is around here. I want to introduce them and train them into liking it. (Laughs) We’ll see if it works or not. So definitely the live music aspect is why we’re here.
Q: Is there any worry that you’re going to cannibalize your audience?
A: Well, I’m going to work hard at not doing that. I mean, that’s why I said different things. On Saturday afternoon, I’m going to put the guys that were doing my Wednesdays over there, Rotary Park, hosting a jam at the other place. So it’s a different vibe, they have a young crowd that goes in there. Our crowd is mostly boomers. So that will be a good, different vibe. I’ll try not to compete with myself, for sure.
But like I say, there’s some acts that I can’t get (in the old place now). For instance, MonkeyJunk started playing over there, their first gigs. Now it’s too small. So that kind of thing. Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, they started over there and are too big now. (Laughs) They’re probably too big for this place now, but that’s what we’re looking at, doing bigger shows that we can put more people in. And that place is always going to be like it has been, an organic little spot where people can go and try stuff out. You can’t beat going into (a place) 50 seats in the front, like being in your living room, just blowing everyone away.
And again one of the problems is that there we only have 50 spots so people go, “Ah, I won’t go down there,” because you have to get there too early or you won’t be able to get a good spot. With this place we’re hoping to fix that.
Q: So you always plan on keeping the two? You’re not planning on closing the other one?
A: Nah. No plans for it. (Laughs) Unless somebody makes me an offer I can’t refuse, I might as well keep it. But it’s doing good over there … So if I can’t make it down here, I’ll quit. (Laughs) I’ll go back to playing sax full time.
Mikey’s on 12th (918 12th Ave. S.W.) opens Friday with happy hour set by Steve Pineo and an evening show featuring Peter and the Wolves.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He likes beer. Buy him one.