Every serious music lover dreams of opening a live-music bar.
The chance to program and design your own venue, every week, six days out of seven, is the life. Sure, it can be tough, but fellow fans will recognize the quality and appreciate your vision.
That's what Steam Miami owner Russ Bruce is betting on with Railroad Blues, a new NE 14th Street speakeasy-style venue and drinking spot, celebrating its no-charge soft opening this weekend.
C'mon, the first one is always free.
Bruce has spent his entire life chasing the best music across the country. In the 6th grade, he fell in love to Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band's Night Moves. He cock-rocked with the best of them as a teen. And he lived in Seattle during the '90s. As he aged, he found himself drawn to the blues, seeking out jukes and dive on his many travels.
"I've always looked up where's the blues bar, because that seems to be the place to find the best music," Bruce says. "But Miami doesn't have one. If we're gonna be a real city, I think Miami needs a good blues bar."
Railroad Blues will take up residence at 30 NE 14th Street, the space formerly occupied by PS14, OHWOW's Bar, and ex-Vagabond owner Carmel Ophir's Barfly. It is also in the same building as Steam, which inhabits The Vagabond's old location.
To program the music, Bruce has enlisted the help of talent buyer Eric Garcia, a man with tons of booking experience at beloved venues like The Stage and Tobacco Road.
"The one thing Russ is insistent upon is that anything we have up there will be high quality, there's not gonna be any shit music on the stage," Garcia says, though he admits it can't be all blues all the time.
"He wants live music six nights out of the week. Even if we wanted to, there's not enough traditional blues bands to go around."
So there will also be rock 'n' roll, R&B, rockabilly -- anything as long as it's founded in the blues tradition and meets the "not shit" standard.
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"One of my big pet peeves," Bruce says, "is you go into a city and a place says, 'Oh, we're having live music seven days a week.' And alright, Tuesday, you go down there and they say, 'Nah, we're not having a band tonight."
No such problem at Railroad Blues. In fact, tonight, the tuneage will be provided by Ketchy Shuby and the Lovers Key, two non-blues bands with a whole lot of soul. On Friday night, the stage will host White Stripes-esque duo Killmama and local quintet My Deer. For Saturday, it's gonna get bluesy, with an early set from out-of-towners Space Coast Playboys, followed by a midnight performance from Deaf Poets. Then Sunday rounds things out with Miami rock legend Graham Wood Drout.
Don't forget! That's all free.
"People work hard for their money, and if they come and spend it with me, they're going to get a good value for it," Bruce says.
Inside, the vibe is that of a Prohibition-era railroad car, complete with decorative luggage, moody lighting, and classy staffers dressed in bow ties, corsets, and suspenders.
After this weekend's sneak preview and free programming, The Railroad Blues will outwardly transform into the Railroad News. To the uninformed passerby, the venue will look like an old-time newsstand, the entrance cleverly hidden from sight. Visitors will need to use a password, provided through social media, to get through the door. Sometimes, it will be free of charge. And other times, there will be the promise of a free drink.
"I want to try to give people a true speakeasy type of experience," Bruce says. "Everybody likes to get away with something."
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Railroad Blues' Soft Opening Weekend. With Ketchy Shuby, Lovers Key, Killmama, My Deer, Deaf Poets, Space Coast Playboys, and Graham Wood Drout. Thursday to Saturday, August 21 to 23. Railroad Blues, 30 NE 14th St., Miami. No cover. Ages 21 and up. Call 786-516-3393 or visit railroadbluesmiami.com.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.