Local music message boards had a field day. At ArgumentMachine.com, which is frequented by a diverse group of indie scenesters, the responses to the news ranged from disgust to laissez faire.
"I've never liked the Hurricane," wrote one local musician. "The only thing it had going for it was the sound and some of the people (no, not the door guys). This will make not one bit of difference in my life. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've purchased more than one drink in all of Westport in the last year, maybe longer."
This musician added that anyone who availed himself or herself of the proposed limo service from the Hurricane down the block to Karma deserved to get "punched in the taint."
One forum regular claimed that he had puked in his mouth upon hearing the news. Another posited that Westport was drawing a Plaza crowd already anyway. Someone else observed, "Sounds like another very unfortunate hit for the original scene of KC. Although if the original scene drew people, I guess it would be a different thing. [It's] just sad."
Meanwhile, over at HipHopKC.com, responses were more incensed. The Hurricane is one of the few venues willing to book occasional hip-hop shows and crunk nights.
"This sucks," ranted a board user. "The Hurricane is known as a fucking dive, has been for about three decades. Ask anybody, even people in Leawood. I don't see a lil' sprucing up getting the Plaza yuppies up to their fucking bar. In the meantime, they're taking away one of the few consistent spots for performers in our scene to do our shit."
Another regular, a DJ who has seen both sides of the hip-hop issue both the discrimination and the violence wrote, "The stuff club owners have to go through dealing with hip-hop clientele is stressful. [I've] been [in] situation[s] in this market where I thought I was going to have to fight my way out of the clubs. Then you add to the factor promoters who are out for the quick buck and look for ways to pimp hip-hop because it attracts a 'certain' clientele but don't want to deal with the urban demographic. It's like one hand washes the other; hip-hop is popular when it brings in money to a club that is dying out, but when the money is gone, we are the first ones to be let go and blamed for the problems."
Meanwhile, the club's general manager of some 20 years, Stan Henry, told me that no deal had been signed. He said there would be meetings in the coming week to decide the bar's future.
I decided to spend a couple of nights there. The Hurricane's present is like that of most local clubs: Sometimes people come, and sometimes they don't. Last Thursday night, a decent crowd turned out for a farewell show by local nu-metal outfit Axium, whose members were clad in shirts and ties. Outside on the deck, the kickass lady DJ known as cQuence spun house and hip-hop to a depressingly tiny audience of five or six people, one of whom was the boisterous Val Ball, who talked about diving off the stage in a bunny suit at CBGB's when she lived in New York.
Friday, almost no one came to see Lawrence band OK Jones, which, for my money, plays some of the best original songs of any band in town (especially the radio-worthy, honky-tonkin' pop tune "Besides Fall in Love"). More people filed in afterward to see Red Guitar, a four-guitar pop-rock group that plays wholesome, cheesy odes to optimism.
The Hurricane's famous resident dancer, Ricardo Melija, was in the house on Friday, wearing his usual floppy felt hat, fannypack and ridiculously short shorts. He took me on my first tour of the downstairs area, where the pool tables and dartboard are kept. He hadn't been told about the possible change to his home turf, but he didn't seem upset. "Life goes on," he said.
Life wouldn't go on at the Hurricane, though, for folks like Melija, OK Jones, Val Ball and probably cQuence.
That wouldn't be a tragedy. The Hurricane isn't a hot spot anymore. More often than not, the stage holds mediocre bands or groups, such as jam bands, with narrow appeal (but, sometimes, a large audience). The cool kids still flood the Record Bar, and Davey's, the Brick and Mike's seem to be rising up again after taking a hit last October when the RB opened. If the Hurricane dropped out, those places would get even better shows more often.
Remember the outrage that surrounded the Grand Emporium's transformation? People were pissed, but the blues scene shifted to Knuckleheads and seems to be doing all right now.
Don't get me wrong. I live in Westport, and I'm not pleased with the prospect of the neighborhood being overrun by the sorts of people who'd prefer to patronize some pale Midwestern imitation of a Los Angeles nightclub. I'd like it better if the Hurricane stayed the way it is, but I also say let the upwardly mobile embarrass themselves. Drop a ridiculously upscale venue in Westport and listen for the bell tolling The Drink, The Drink, The Drink in the distance.
We know what KC's all about. We locals get along best where floors are dirty, people wear blue jeans, ashtrays are full, drinks are cheap and the music is live and loud. Music lovers have enough places to go. If Westport ceases to be one for a while, we can adapt. Tropical Depression Would a remodeled Hurricane wash away parts of the music scene or merely dampen a few spirits?