You might be forgiven for thinking, based on its barnlike facade, that Broadway Joe's is a country bar, where Stetson hats, long-neck bottles of Budweiser and line-dancing are the orders of the evening. You'd be right only about the long-neck Buds.
Located at on the cusp of the University Heights area -- which in recent years has seen a small explosion in clubs catering to DJ culture rather than live music -- Joe's is the black sheep of the strip.
Since its inception a few decades back, when its namesake, Joe DiVinscenzo, booked music he admittedly didn't particularly care for, but knew his clientele would, Broadway Joe's has been a relatively friendly place for independent original bands and artists to perform before a sympathetic audience. It was never a joint you'd frequent to show off your new outfit or expect to mingle with the "beautiful people." Joe's lacked a pretentious attitude, its cement floor, bare walls and single neon beer sign hanging above the stage suggesting a New York punk club circa 1978, rather than a flashy pick-up joint.
Since the club was purchased by one of those independent musicians frequenting it -- Sam Marabella, guitarist/vocalist with the eminently funky and decidedly eclectic Sweatin' Like Nixon -- it has broadened its scope considerably. Back in the day -- 1990, when I first moved to Buffalo, and patronized Joe's pretty much weekly -- you might find progressive rock, alternative and nascent "jam band" acts joining together on a bill, or newcomers seeking to share their wares before a live audience during a Sunday evening open mic. People came early, stayed late, and drank plenty of draft beer. It was, to coin a phrase just becoming popular among musicians back then, "pretty chill, man."
Today, Joe's is still pretty chill, but like its brethren just up the street in University Heights, the club has allied itself with hip dance culture, through weekly events like Wednesday's popular "Night Shift: Eletro-Indie Dance Music of the '80s" showcase and the just-launched "Rockgrrl Mondays" program.
It would be unjust to suggest that Marabella and Joe's have attempted to ride the coattails of their dance-savvy neighbors. In fact, the opposite may be true; Joe's broke new ground when the pioneering "Baby Steps Hip-Hop" program arrived five years back, turning Thursday nights into a forward-looking blend of dancing, DJs, emcees and live rap. "Baby Steps" struck a chord with what was, at the time, a college crowd, and the event became one of the most successful weekly happenings on the Buffalo club scene.
Part of what continues to make Joe's a great place to experience the Buffalo music scene is the willfulness with which Marabella and his team book diverse idioms of music. Rock bands, jam bands, acoustic acts, cult legends touring across the country, DJs spinning underground house music -- whatever. During any given week, you might catch all of this stuff.
And the venerated open mic night? It's still happening, folks. Every Tuesday evening, beginning at 10.
Though it might be few miles from the downtown hub of the independent rock scene, Broadway Joe's remains an integral part of the Buffalo music community, be you fan or musician.
3051 Main St.
Scene: Home to the casual, collegiate and music savvy
Drinks: Draft beer or some shots
Dress code: Hippie to hip-hop
Next week: Voelker's