There is no lawn at B.B.'s Lawnside Bar B.Q., but there is an uneven parking lot with an honest-to-God roadhouse planted on it (Patrick Swayze not included). B.B's is only 15 years old, but the building it occupies is a piece of living history that recalls wilder days when south KC lay on the outskirts of city law and juke joints stayed open all night. Things are a bit tamer now, but it's still a roadhouse -- the place is small and loud, with local and national acts (most of them blues or rock) playing Wednesday through Sunday. Many of the tables are long, cafeteria-type setups, so you many get to know your neighbor while dunking a rib in the signature sweet sauce and bobbing your head to the music.
Youd think this town would have lots of joints offering the true barbecue-and-blues experience. Friendly, greasy dives that you can smell before you enter. Packed places where casually dressed patrons, surrounded by handbills from past shows, gnaw on burnt ends wrapped in white bread while tapping their toes to nationally known blues acts. But theres only one such establishment in these parts. Down south around 85th Street and Troost stands B.B.s Lawnside BBQ, a family-run operation that features live blues six nights a week and a menu full of Kansas City and Louisiana-style favorites that are smoked in the granite pit out back. While the lineup changes on the weekends, B.B.s has been home to the citys most celebrated blues musicians, such as John Paul Drum, Diane Mama Ray and Lee McBee. Definitely a place to bring out-of-town visitors, B.B.s has a large deck in front, buckets of beer and an open blues jam on Saturdays. The cover charge is always reasonable, but it helps to arrive early to secure a spot at one of the family-style tables, unless you want to stand in back by the bar.
Westport Coffee House has all the usual coffeehouse attributes: Internet service, yummy pastries and, of course, fresh-brewed coffee. The jukebox has a pretty good selection going, and musical acts play upstairs Thursday through Saturday. Where Westport differs from other coffeehouses is that below the coffee shop part of the building is a decent-sized black-box theater for regular concerts, comedy acts, plays and poetry readings. Seeing a show there may feel a bit like youre watching a spot on Nickelodeon, especially given that there is no smoking or alcohol allowed, but the sound is quite good, and its easy to see the stage from just about anywhere in the room.
A shining example of architect John Eberson's renowned "atmospheric" style, (wherein domed, sky-painted ceilings and elegant interiors are meant to invoke a an outdoor, garden-like setting), the Uptown first opened its stately doors in 1928. Its meticulous restoration began in 1995, and a parade of different events, including concerts, weddings, graduations and galas have taken place since. When bigger (but not neccessarily mainstream) acts such as the Pixies or Slayer play Kansas City, it's usually going to be at the Uptown. The venue allows smoking, but only in the Nowhere Lounge, a space inside the building that acts as bar and welcome retreat from extra-packed, extra-loud shows.
Lawrences Liberty Hall has been many things in its 142 years. Originally a meeting house, it has also been the site of operas, live music and movies. Older scenesters remember it as the Red Dog, home of Lawrences booming rock scene in the ´60s and ´70s. These days, you wont find much opera there, but concerts and movie screenings occur daily. And Liberty Hall is just the right place for either movies or music its smallish size (compared with other theaters) makes for great balcony seating, but it is a large enough venue that big-name acts play there often (and loudly). Other perks include brewery-fresh beer and a beautiful, grand vaulted ceiling, complete with the original chandeliers.
Every vacation community needs a place like the Lake House Pub a place where you can kick back with locals and enjoy the spectacle that can occur when a younger crowd tangles with an older brood. Though the big smoky pub has five large televisions (and four mini ones at the bar), customers remain focused on one another, laughing with friends or scoping out bachelors and bachelorettes. When Lady Gaga or Devo isn't pouring through the speakers, bands play on the stage area in the corner. Stairs lead to a small game room that has the feel of a frat-house basement, and serious pool sharks go at it on three tables in the bar.
Most of the time, folks look up at the KC Live! stage to see local and national bands perform. But during the World Cup, dwellers of the Power & Light District's "Living Room" will be looking up to see how their favorite soccer teams fare on the venue's giant video screens.