But is this the return of something vital to the music scene, or is it more the homecoming of an old college buddy a guy you're friends with on paper (and, let's say, who writes lame songs to play on his acoustic guitar) but you secretly want to bash over the head with a shovel?
From what I can tell, it's somewhere in between. Optimists like me hope that it will prosper and amp shit up. Pessimists never went there much to begin with and won't go there now. And some didn't even know it was closed for half the year. To the latter group, I issue a strident What the fuck?
Sometime in May, an entrepreneur from Leawood bought the Westport music stronghold and acted as though he planned to turn it into a Plaza-style VIP nightclub (Wayward Son, May 4, 2006). But that fell through, and the guys who own the two Jerry's Bait Shops in Lenexa and Lee's Summit bought the joint, got a 3 a.m. license and opened it on November 3.
I went there the next night, and the experience was oddly comforting. Justin Randel of the cool new band I Love You worked sound at the Hurricane for its last year before the hiatus, and though he hasn't been back since the reopening, his description of the old 'Cane still fits: "It had an uncomfortable, homey feel."
Many times have I plopped, drunk and alone, on the long, curved couch in the back (it's still there) and gazed past the circular bar (check) to the elevated stage area (still there), feeling vaguely as though some random person were about to shiv me (still coming in the air tonight, oh lawd).
The only change that I noticed about
the place besides most of the staff is that the stainless-steel pissing trough in the men's room has been replaced by two midget-level urinals.
"The Hurricane is a live music venue," co-owner John Kelly tells me. "I'm really into getting the musicians working."
The intention looks very good the vast majority of the booking through November and into December is local but the owners must be kidding giving some of those bands shows. Then again, I've talked to them, and their goal is to have bands, period, which may explain the scattershot booking style.
Although the Hurricane's band-centrism will prevent DJs from spinning there, the owners sound open to the idea of live hip-hop. "It depends on who they are and what kind of crowd they'd bring," Kelly says.
The best bill so far this month is It's Over, Whiskeyboots and the Afterparty all great bands Friday. The rest of the month, not so much. Don't fucking tell me it's impossible to ascertain what a local band is about just by reading the name. Don't be naïve, holmes.
Regardless of concert quality, Saturday brought a decent crowd out for proggers Savatar and popular local metallers Sidewise and the Leo Project. There were quite possibly more babes than I've ever seen there on a nondance night. Perhaps the younger, fresher portion of the suburban Bait Shop crowd had come down to Westport to howl. OK with me.
I arrived toward the end of Savatar's set to see two '70s-lovin' guitarists (one with a tremendous white 'fro), a bassist who had probably digested too much Korn, and a pretty good drummer wailing away like an instrumental Mars Volta but without nearly as much talent, showmanship or direction.
I stayed through most of energetic and dynamic Sidewise, which provided enough soaring guitar and gothic keyboards to entertain a whole network of IT guys playing Halo 2. The band has fans and a sophomore album on the way. But, man, I just don't get what's compelling or fun about this teenage vampire noise.
With my earplugs in, the emo-metal barrage felt like an inner-ear massage, and I got drowsy. I left, but I'd seen Leo before, and its music is actually good if you forget for a moment how jejune that kind of metal is.
All of which leads me to offer some advice.
Giving local bands a home is noble, but please don't be that guy who moved to Nashville to play acoustic guitar in coffee shops, sent out dorky e-mail newsletters while he was away and now is back, living with his parents.
Have shovel, will bash.