INDIAN BARRY\'S: The Oldest (and newest) Midland Street Entertainment Showcase

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 632   By: Robert E Martin

22nd February, 2007     0

Appearances can be deceiving, especially when it concerns the passionate and artistic side of human nature.  Barry Kane is a perfect example.  Upon first glance, one can tell his love for motorcycles & music by the leather jacket & long hair; but unless you've met, rode or played with the man, you'd probably underestimate his love for history and commitment to supporting the local live music scene.

Nor would one realize that has business experience in the entertainment industry dates back nearly 24 years.

Back in the 1940s, people would come from miles around to visit the Vogue Room in Bay City's Bon Ton Lounge.  It was the Big Band Era and you needed a reservation and were met at the front by a doorman because of the live music that was showcased.

In 1984, Barry and his father Birney Kane purchased the old Bon Ton and opened BB. Sawmill, named after the old Sage mill that was located on the river at the foot of Midland Street. 

Throughout the 1980s and up until its closure in 1998, Barry showcased the best & broadest variety of original and covers rock-n-roll bands that ever graced, and helped define, the heyday of the tri-city music scene.

Now, after an almost nine year hiatus, Barry has re-opened The Sawmill as Indian Barry's and renewed his commitment to fostering a vital & contemporary local music scene.

For the uninitiated, Indian Barry's is a unique exhibit of old town architecture. The interior has the capacity for 200 people and is still growing, and he recently invested over $8,000 in a state-of-the-art in-house PA system.

When you walk in the front door, you are greeted by the longest bar in town, accented by antique ceramic leaves framing the identical mirrored back wall that proudly holds the big B.T. from the Bon Ton logo of yesteryear. Only today, you're likely to be greeted by Vicki Grimm - the glue that holds things together behind the bar.

So have things really changed?

"When I re-opened, I decided to go for a motorcycle format," explains Barry, "which is how I came up with the name. I want to cater to the biker clientele, because nobody is really doing it.  Plus, I wanted to continue to showcase local music, which is why I've updated the music room so heavily with large in-house production.  I've got twice as much power now as I did back in the day, new Crown Amps, it rocks."

"I'm into building motorcycles on the side," elaborates Barry. "I've been doing that most of my life and have a collection of 18 bikes right now. People have a lot of misconceptions about bikers. You don't see many bums on Harley's anymore, not like in the old days when people feared them. Most guys riding have bikes ranging from five grand to thirty grand. The sky's the limit as far as money goes with a lot of these guys."

In terms of format, Barry leans towards featuring original bands on weekdays. "Anybody that wants to come in and make some noise, we'll figure it out," he encourages. "Right now we're doing a 'Metal Night' on Mondays, featuring four different bands each week. Tri-Skull Promotions has been helping us with this. It's not for everybody; you either hate it or love it. The ones coming in have been loving it."

"Thursday I've been doing a Biker Night, with $3.00 pitchers. Friday & Saturday is when we feature better local cover bands, that tend to draw in more of a crowd than the original bands."

"I've also been working with Maybe August, because I believe that band is real good and as close to pro as you can get," states Barry. "I'm bringing them in with this band that is currently one of Chicago's hottest, called Bumpus, on Saturday, March 10th at 7 PM. It's a party celebrating Rosco's birthday, no cover, appetizers provided."

So was it weird for Barry getting back into the bar bizz after a nine year break?

"I think the numbers are down from years ago and not as many people are into the bar scene," reflects Barry, "but other than that, it felt good to be back behind the boards doing sound."

" I've done over 3,000 shows myself and never get tired of it. It's what I do - that and motorcycles. It's my bag. Hey, you gotta be good at something! I'm good at running sound and dealing with people. Honestly, my first night behind the board and it felt like I never left the place!"

"The good thing is the break gave me time to raise my kids," continues Barry. "I went through a divorce, own a resale shop, life is good."

Has Barry's impression of the music scene changed much in the last decade?

"Well, honestly I think the production in the bars has gone down to nothing. Years ago the shows were bigger. People dressed the part. There's not as much showboating going on now. Half the instruments are amplified, half of 'em aren't. As for the quality of bands, certain ones shine out farther than others. I think its gotten lighter on the cover band end of it, from the old days."

When I point out that Barry has carved a longer history out of Midland Street than many of his predecessors, being one of the first to commit to it, he laughs,

"Hell, I was here back when the sidewalks were put in," he continues. "It was a ghetto back then, literally. The bridge was down, and there was no marina, nothing but a bunch of dilapidated and vacant old buildings."

"Yeah, nowadays, it's beautiful down here, actually. Everyone compliments each other well, each operator is finally doing something a little different than the other, and every bar has a unique personality about it, which is kind of neat.

"Most important, the Street is shining now."

Indian Barry's is located at 505. E. Midland Street, Bay City, 989-891-BIKE. It's available for rental or private parties. Promoters wishing to stage shows should contact Barry. The Sawmill is open 2:30 -2:00 AM Monday Friday, and 8 PM - 2:00 AM on Saturdays. Pool, Darts, and Keno is available.


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