This is the latest in our series of reviews of local bars, clubs and other venues along the Grand Strand through the eyes of a music fan. Last Tuesday evening we stopped by the Crafty Rooster in downtown Conway for Open Mic Night.
As a Myrtle Beach resident, there's something slightly odd about heading away from all the craziness that is the beach to a place as calm and historic as Conway in order to grab a drink.
Yet, in visiting the Crafty Rooster Bar & Grill it was good to find that the Coastal-Carolina themed bar gives the college crowd and residents of our county's seat at least one solid option for a place to have a few drinks and take in a band or a place good food at a good price.
While I apparently visited on what was one of the more vacant Tuesdays of the year — what with CCU being on break for the Thanksgiving holiday — it allowed me ample opportunity to take in the Open Band Night entertainment.
It also gave me time to examine the atmosphere of a place that seems to serve as all of the following things for a place with desperately few cool places for students — or anyone — to hang out:
- Sports bar: There are plenty of TVs for watching games and CCU sports memorabilia adorns much of the bar's wall real estate. Looking at the signed jerseys and photos of current and past teams and speaking with staff gives the impression that Craft Rooster isn't just a gimmick. The folks there really do support the CCU community which makes up a good portion of its crowd.
- Lunch spot: "We feed half of Conway for lunch," says bar manager Paul Robinson. It's no wonder, considering the central location, just around the corner from the courthouse, and the fact that an average entree is $4-8 dollars. And don't think the food is just cheap either...the Ragin Rooster Chicken Sandwich, made with meaty Chicken fingers dipped in an awesome hot sauce, stands up against any others I've had in this area.
- Gathering place: According to Robinson, Crafty Rooster has become very involved in hosting Greek events, fundraisers and parties for campus and other organizations. Plus, I get the impression that if you're of that younger set it's a good place to go and meet someone of the opposite sex on a Friday night.
- Entertainment venue: Robinson says the bar hosts live music or other entertainment 4-5 nights a week. On top of Open Band Night, which features an open mic format with musicians and/or bands sitting in on house equipment, the bar also regularly hosts local bands such as Southern Blue and the Chordorouys to name a few. Additionally, they are getting ready to start an in-house trivia game similar to the Team Trivia group which runs shows around the region.
Crafty Rooster hosts a local acts throughout the year, with an emphasis on keeping a good variety of sounds flowing through the bar.
"We like to mix it up," says Robinson. "We try not to bring the same band in but once a month a the most. We're always looking for new band to come in and play on Friday and Saturday nights."
He adds that while the are always exploring their options, the bar tries to book bands that have a following.
"We bring you in if you can bring a crowd," he says. "But we'll give folks a chance too. That's why we encourage bands to come to our Open Band Night. It's like come play with someone else's instruments and if we like you we'll book you."
As far as Open Band Night is concerned, its a weekly gig hosted by local reggae drummer Pete Roditis, who plays as part of house band for the evening and lends equipment to the cause.
During this time musicians ranging from seasoned vets of the scene to high school garage bands will take their turn on the stage, a fairly large, raised area which butts up against the bar's front windows.
It's a great, and for the most part family-friendly atmosphere, that happened to include a pair of father son duos the night we visited. It included local blues musician Tim Allen letting his 12-year-old son bang on some bongos and 17-year-old TJ Mark sitting in with the house band on drums while his dad, a former Latin conga player watched admiringly.
The music itself ranged from acoustic blues covers to rock instrumentals before always finding its way back near the house band's wheelhouse, right in the reggae/rock genre.
Overall the evening was a pleasurable one from a fan's perspective and seems like it could be great fun for a band or player looking to get in with a crowd of musician, but we'll hold off final judgement until a time when we can get back and see what it's like with the Coastal crowd out in full force.