Friday, May 9, 2008

Steve Schroeder RIP

In the heart of Wichita, KS, one of the most unlikely places on earth, stands what is, in my opinion, the coolest bar and music venue in the Midwest. Kirby’s Beer Store has been an essential stopover for touring bands for decades. In spite of the fact that it has a maximum capacity of about 50 people (that’s being generous), the PA is a piece of crap, and you play for beer and tips, the very ambience and character of the place has made it a deservedly world famous place to play.

Over the course of the last 15 years or so I played Kirby’s at least a dozen times with three different bands. In that time I became good friends with Kirby’s owner Steve Schroeder. In a universe populated by self-important scumbags drunk with their miniscule amount of power and the fleeting ability to affect a band’s immediate destiny Steve was an anomaly. He was generous, friendly, and always genuinely happy to see me and whatever gang of musicians with whom I was traveling whether he had met them before or not. He never once turned me down when I asked him for a booking, something otherwise unheard of in my experience.

Steve died of an illness a couple of weeks ago. I just found out. I don’t know what killed him. I don’t know the fate of his legendary venue. Two things I do know – playing Kirby’s Beer Store was the inevitable high point of every trudgerous trip I made up and down the IH-35 corridor thanks to Steve Schroeder, and this shitty ass year just got exponentially worse with his passing.

Steve, be at peace my brother. You made the world a better place in your time here, and that’s more than most people can take with them. Especially amongst the owners of live music venues.

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