What’s not to like about this town? When last weekend came around, I glued myself to a big screen in a onetime underground hipster watering hole now turned into a legitimate West Bottoms bar. It was quiet early that Friday evening at The Ship as the Royals continued their magical post-season run at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
As the game progressed, the crowd swelled, and as the Royals’ fortunes flowed and ebbed, the tension was met with hard-charging music from the sound system. The appropriately named Rebirth Brass Band offered game-specific lyrics (“let’s go get ’em”), sending a pulse through the room.
As the tie ball game entered extra innings, I swear this little joint cast a spell on the night that must have been felt in that Royals dugout half a continent away. Boom, boom and victory was ours. There was dancing at The Ship, and it was good.
The next day, a tribe of barbecuers gathered for a party, held in the shadow of Kemper Arena adjacent to the Kansas River levee. The event honors an artist friend who died 10 years ago. John Puschek was an avid backyard BBQ master and party thrower, and his circle has come together in increasing numbers every year since his death.
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Briskets, ribs and bacon-wrapped pheasants filled dozens of smokers on the grounds. A whole roasted pig went fast. Vegetarians could get a taste of large and sumptuous grilled squash. The singularly eclectic Howard Iceberg and the Titanics and other bands played for hours as revelers downed beers and ’cue, and I seem to recall that the Original Sinners prompted some serious late-night dancing.
And on this day, someone had a large TV screen installed in the back end of an SUV, with the rear window opened wide, so Royals fans could gather and watch the afternoon game. I did that for a while, then helped out in one tented kitchen area, which soon was outfitted with an iPad streaming the game. Of course, the battery eventually ran out, but our stream provider dialed it up on his smartphone and as the nerves became exposed in that tie ball game, the crowd around the little screen got bigger and more vocal.
You know what happened. There was more joy in this moveable feast of fans.
You might rightly come to the conclusion that many of those artists, musicians and bohemian lair-dwellers do not often expose their sports side. But at this party and at The Ship – as well as everywhere else around town – everyone was a Royals fan and the excitement was more than palpable.
The Ship is probably one of the most unlikely of local sports bars. A group of certified creatives outfitted an old warehouse space with authentic pieces salvaged years ago from a longtime downtown dive bar of the same name. The drinks are cheap, the atmosphere informal and low-light seductive. It’s not a Power & Light mob scene. It caters to a small crowd of satisfied fringe seekers emulating the scene you might have found in any neighborhood bar in town. Eric Hosmer is not likely to show up and spray the crowd with champagne. But he’d certainly be welcome.
The Ship is the kind of place where irony co-exists with sincerity, especially on those days when a big screen sits on the stage where jazz players and DJs usually rein.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Royals delivered an astounding display of precision, excitement and nerve-wracking, edge-walking mystery as they conquered the Baltimore Orioles with a small-ball sledgehammer. Two to one in consecutive games. How about that?
By the time the eighth inning rolled around in Game Four, Bob Asher, The Ship’s co-proprietor, had cranked up the sound system again with the Rebirth Brass Band playing what has become this crowd’s Royals theme song: “Let’s Go Get ’Em.” The team did just that. And now The Ship awaits the next stage of Royals stardom, the World Series. What’s not to like? Indeed: “Let’s go get ’em.”