When he became managing partner at the Dubliner Irish Ale House and Pub in October, Jeff Wiltfang set out to impart several changes throughout the restaurant. Its music program was one of them.
“We wanted to treat the restaurant not like it’s part of Power and Light, but like it’s locally owned,” he said. “Music is one component of that. And we wanted more local music.”
On June 1, the Dubliner launched Here’s to the Roots, a weekly Sunday afternoon music showcase. The event is booked by local musicians and features primarily local musicians. And it’s free.
Kris Bruders books the performers each week along with his wife, Havilah, his bandmate in Cadillac Flambe. The Bruderses and Wiltfang had been tossing around ideas for a weekly local music showcase since March.
“Jeff reached out to us and said he was interested in making the Dubliner more local, including the music,” Kris Bruders said. “He’s a big fan of Rural Grit and that whole concept and he wanted something along those lines.”
The weekly Rural Grit Happy Hour is a showcase of country, bluegrass and roots music Monday nights at the Brick, 1727 McGee St. And Wiltfang said it was an inspiration for what he wanted to do at the Dubliner.
“Rural Grit is spiritual,” he said. “Musicians walk in not knowing exactly who they might be paired with. To see magic happen like that is special. But we’re not trying to copy what they do. We’re a much bigger space; the Brick is much more intimate.
“We’re trying to enhance the scene. And Rural Grit has been great to us. They have a real, solid appreciation for what we do.”
Wiltfang said he wanted to showcase music that matches the restaurant’s decor, which has flooring, furniture and an antique bar that evokes the feel of an Irish pub.
“This is such a beautiful building,” he said. “For years, this place had been booking cover bands and that kind of stuff. We wanted to feature more music and musicians that matched the theme of this place. ”
Wiltfang also consulted with the Midwest Music Foundation, the Irish Center of Kansas City, Louis Meyers of the Folk Alliance International and Kasey Rausch, co-host of “River Trade Radio,” a show on KKFI (90.1 FM) on Sunday mornings. All four are now partners with the showcase.
After several brainstorming sessions, the concept of Here’s to the Roots was born. The showcase runs Sundays from 4 to 8 p.m. It books two featured performers. The first performs from 4 to 5 p.m., the second from 7 to 8 p.m. An open-mic portion runs from 5 to 7 p.m. The featured acts are paid. All musicians who perform receive another perk: a free meal.
“Louis Meyers suggested we feed the musicians,” Wiltfang said, “which was a great idea. It’s not profitable. But that’s not the point. It’s part of getting the musicians up on stage and appreciating them.”
Food is available for the performers during the open-mic portion.
“The meal is more simple than we want it to be,” Wiltfang said. “We’d like it to be more substantial, but we have to be sensible and cost-effective. There’s always a protein, a salad and some bread: a taco bar, a chili bar or a spaghetti station.”
Bruders, who books featured acts two months in advance, said there are no boundaries for the open-mic performers.
“We had a guy who was in town from New York come in and get on stage and beatbox,” he said. “Another guy got up with a trumpet and played a song he wrote. So there really aren’t any limits. We’re still discovering what works.”
Patrick Deveny’s country band the Naughty Pines was recently a showcase act at Dubliner. Like Rural Grit, he said, the showcase is becoming a place for musicians to meet and mingle.
“It is starting to work out very well as a way to meet with people within the musical community,” he said. “As the open-mic element grows, I think we will see bands forming like they have around Rural Grit and some other songwriter events.”
Deveny has performed at another free Sunday afternoon showcase: the Holy Cow Market and Music. In January, market owners Darren and Kathi Callahan Welch moved the Cowtown Mallroom market from the former Cowtown Ballroom to its new location above Bitterman Candy at 3107 Gillham Road. They also changed the market’s name.
The market, Callahan Welch said, is a “big shopping mall, but just on a micro (do-it-yourself) level. People have their own little store that they run themselves.”
The new venue is smaller but the music stage is just as charming, Deveny said.
“Holy Cow is great,” he said. “It’s intimate and family-friendly. It’s in a very different environment than any rooms my bands normally play.”
Callahan Welch said music was part of the business plan when they started back in 2010.
“We always wanted to have more of an event feel,” she said. “I’m sure most similar-type business owners think we are crazy for giving up the square footage for a stage that we don’t make a penny from, but we are live music lovers and have both spent time booking bands. So it seemed natural for it to include live music.”
At Holy Cow, bands play for whatever gets dropped in a tip jar, and the market gives them whatever donations it gets for soda and water. Bands also can sell their merchandise. And pretty much any style of music goes.
“Recently one of our vendors started ‘Drive Your Hot Rod to Holy Cow Day’ every second Sunday, so don’t be surprised to hear louder bands at these events,” she said. “Every style of music gets its time on our stage.”
Here’s to the Roots runs from 4 to 8 p.m. Sundays at the Dubliner, 170 E. 14th St. This is a free event. The showcase schedules two performers, the first from 4 to 5 p.m., the second from 7 to 8 p.m. The open-mic portion is from 5 to 7 p.m.; food is provided free to musicians from 5 to 7 p.m. This week’s featured performers: the Pheasant Pluckers and Brother Bagman.
Holy Cow Market and Music, 3107 Gillham Road, is open from 11 to 4 p.m. Sundays. The weekly music showcase runs from 3 to 4 p.m. This is a free event. For possible booking, performers can send information to firstname.lastname@example.org.