The country-western bar is such an overused concept, it's a wonder it took Power Plant Live this long to get one of its own.
The downtown entertainment zone already has a rock bar, a mega club, a piano bar. Now it has PBR Baltimore, the place where, its publicist boasts, "cowboy cool meets urban chic."
But upon inspection, PBR has about as much cowboy cool as a bucket of KFC has real chicken. It's not so much a country-western bar as it is a mall-ified version of it. What Hot Topic is to punk, PBR is to country.
The club is next to Angels Rock Bar, so that Power Plant Live's second floor is now an akward hybrid (kind of like a man-horse spokesman). A little bit country on the left, a little bit rock on the right, neither as authentic as they would like to be.
The clubs don't have separate entrances. Instead the lines are combined, which means that admission can take as long as 15 minutes. On a recent Friday night, the line snaked all the way to the curb, a needless delay in any club, but especially ones as purportedly populist as these two.
PBR — which stands for Professional Bull Riders — is one of several bull-riding-themed clubs of the same name around the country; there are locations in Las Vegas and Kansas City, Mo.
The Baltimore PBR is as sprawling as any of the neighboring mega clubs. Besides the two spots that anchor the floor — a mechanical bull and a dance area — there are a couple of arcades, a pool table, an outdoor area with high-top stools and tables, and plenty of space to take in the patrons' shenanigans.
The club's stabs at authenticity can be found on the wait staff and on the walls, which are decorated with fake bulls' skulls and other cowboy paraphernalia.
If the publicist's line wasn't enough to make you heave, there's more. PBR frames Jeff Foxworthy-isms: "Never name a pig you plan to eat," et al.
PBR's taste in beer is no better. Blue Moon, one of its four available drafts, is what passes for a craft brew here. They're sold for $3.50; rail mixed drinks are $4 and higher-end cocktails go for $5.50.
The service was subpar — it took about six minutes to get 12 ounces of that Blue Moon — though let's give them the benefit of the doubt and blame that delay on the night's big turnout.
At least the wait staff were in keeping with the theme.
The female bartenders' outfits were of the sexy Halloween variety. They wore Daisy Dukes and plaid shirts tied at the chest. There was another waitress, wearing leather chaps and red lycra gym shorts, who walked around with shots on a tray.
The hardest-working member of the staff is the mechanical bull. The line to ride it went around the padded, plush red square where it's stationed.
The biggest cheers came when two girls rode the mechanical bull facing each other. The crowd here is overwhelmingly young. If the Tiki Barge's neighbors couldn't handle those patrons' antics with a tree, it's safe to say they might have suffered a major coronary at PBR.
Though 93.1 WPOC was broadcasting from the club, you could be forgiven for thinking you were at Mist or Mosaic.
The music was decidedly generic. "Let Me Clear My Throat" by DJ Kool, then the Black Eyed Peas, then "Like a G6." "Don't Stop Believin'" was played, as was Cee Lo's uncensored "Forget You" and Usher's "DJ's Gotta Us Fallin' in Love." "Parks and Recreation"'s Jean-Ralphio swears by the same playlist at The Snakehole Lounge.
When Jason Aldean came on the speakers, it seemed like an afterthought, a gentle reminder that the bar is, in theory, country-themed. The point is, PBR is supposed to fill a void in the city for those who don't want to listen to the same soundtrack that blares from every other speaker system.
Instead, it serves country music as if it were an unpalatable cold medicine, covered in safe, top-40 standards — "Shots" by LMFAO, for instance. It's country music for the cowboy who wears Ed Hardy shirts and trucker hats.
If you go
PBR Baltimore is located at 2 Market Place in Power Plant Live. Call 443-680-9433 or go to pbrbaltimore.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun