When it comes to live music in clubs, bold listeners seek out the strange rather than the familiar.
Of course, that's not always an easy task.
While there's no shortage of live music spots in Hampton Roads, ones that feature original music aren't plentiful. It's easy to understand why. Crowds are often smaller. So are profit margins. Many times, when a bar books something unusual, it's a labor of love. A restaurant owner decides he wants to offer an alternative for himself and his customers.
Here are a few of the best, most reliable places in Hampton Roads to hear original music. A word of warning, though. This is a fast-changing landscape. A pub or restaurant that offers original music today might do an about face and offer only karaoke tomorrow. Check websites and call ahead if you're planning a mind-opening night on the town.
Hampton Taphouse, 17 E. Queens Way, Hampton. 757-224-5829. Owner Pete Pittman is a big fan of American roots music. Concerts at the Taphouse often reflect his tastes: Acoustic, swinging and spiked with a twist of twang. Out-of-town acts Wayne Hancock, Eilen Jewell and Danny Barnes have all performed in the cozy upstairs room at the Taphouse. The small space, decorated with inspiration from television's "Hee-Haw," has also hosted local original acts including Jackie Scott and the Housewreckers and the Muckrakes.
Corner Pocket, 4805 Courthouse St. Williamsburg. 757-220-0808. This upscale billiards parlor also serves serious food such as shrimp and grits, surf and turf and jambalaya. Occasionally, though, it also serves live music. When it does, it's usually first-rate. Over the years, blues and zydeco musicians have made stops there including Marcia Ball and C.J. Chenier. Local acoustic-music virtuoso Bill Gurley and Bobby Hornsby, brother of Bruce, play here from time to time, too.
Mojo Bones, 9659 First View St., Ocean View, Norfolk. 757-480-6656. It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but Mojo Bones is a classy dive. With minimalist decor and plenty of open space, it's a comfortable place to see a band. Mojo Bones once focused on blues bands but now features local country and rock acts as well.
Olde Towne Tavern, 31 E. Mellen St., Hampton. 757-251-2626. This pub in the heart of Phoebus features original music in an unpretentious setting. By teaming with the folks from Internet radio's Your Music Show, this bar and grill has opened its doors to a wide range of adventurous local musicians. While it hosts cover bands as well, Olde Towne has become a regular stop for hometown original rock acts such as Uglyography and SICMaN of Virginia.
Victorian Tea Station, 36 N. Mallory St., Hampton. 757-723-5663. Located in Phoebus around the corner from Olde Towne Tavern, this quirky establishment hosts a monthly singer-songwriter/open-mike session hosted by singer and bon vivant Vaughn Deel. It happens on the first Thursday of each month and it attracts a range of talent from skilled veterans to newbies playing out for the first time. Deel has a knack for making them all feel comfortable and the music benefits from the welcoming vibe.
What's your favorite place to hear original music? Post your picks in the comments section below.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun