Where We Live: Off-Broadway – St. Louis, MO

Let’s play a little imagination game. Are you ready? Okay. Close your eyes, and think about your ideal bar or venue. Well, I guess wait until you’re done reading this before you close your eyes. You kind of need to read this to get the game. Unless you have a friend nearby and he or she can read it aloud during the exercise. Actually, forget it. Just open your eyes and read about this great bar and think about it in your brains.

Okay. So you walk into the place. You step through the initial entryway, and you see a bar in front of you and a stage on your right. Hanging behind the bar, high on the wall in a prominent place, is that awesome picture of Johnny Cash giving the finger. You notice off to one side of that picture and a little lower on the wall is Willie Nelson with a big smile and also giving the finger. To the side of Mr. Nelson you see another iconic image – Bob Dylan in his younger years: harmonica around his neck, guitar in hand, relaxing against a wall. You also notice a sign behind the bar that says “Today’s Special” which is followed by a middle finger. Slightly intimidating, sure, but still funny. Don’t be scared.

Behind the bar a few bartenders hold post: a young cute girl, a long-haired no-bullshit guy, and a tall older gentleman with a beard, cowboy boots, dark jeans, and a PBR shirt who is leaning against the back wall by the cash register with his arms crossed surveying the scene. We’ll call him Steve.

There are a good handful of people starting to file in. Some regulars posting up in their favorite spots around the stage, young twenty-somethings ordering beers for themselves and their girlfriends, and high school kids pressed right up to the stage.

You look around the place a little more and notice some circus silks (reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil) and swings hanging just below the rafters above the stage. There is a big wooden chandelier over the audience, and the walls are wood paneled, but nice wood paneling, stylish. You aren’t in your parents’ basement. A balcony in the back promises secluded seating, obscured slightly by wooden support beams and a railing, but it still looks like a great place to see the show.

The place is a good size, not too tiny where you will be crammed in with 60 other people, but not gigantic where you won’t hear or see anything. Perfect size. Just then a local alternative country band jumps up on stage, says hello, and start playing. Their sound is crisp and clear. You look to the back corner at the sound booth and see a man fiddling with dials and knobs. He’s making sure the sound is just right – and it is.

Sound like a great place? A fantasy? Nope! It’s real, an oasis, a little joint called Off-Broadway in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Wait, wait,” you tell me, “St. Louis!? Like Nelly, Cardinals, the Arch, St. Louis?”

Yes, sir.

Nestled on the south side of the city, Off-Broadway has been busy making a name for itself as thee top music venue in St. Louis. The ‘Steve’ I mentioned earlier is owner Steve Pohlman who bought and renovated the bar in 2004, and has been working hard to make it the best it can be. With a new sound system, the best sound engineer in the city (according to The Riverfront Times), and a venue smoke-free five years before the city passed its own smoke-free ban, Pohlman is making it happen.

All of these improvements plus:

…great beer selections and prices from local St. Louis breweries Schlafly and Lemp (whose old brewery is just across the street) to hipster stand-bys PBR and Stag.

…a diverse and top-notch booking calendar, including everything from alt. country and bluegrass such as Missouri favorites Big Smith, to metal to popular independent bands such as Appleseed Cast, Sunset Rubdown, and Camera Obscura, to burlesque and side-shows (hence the swings and silks embedded in the ceiling).

…strong support for local musicians and local radio.

…a handful of free local and touring shows.

Three-time winner of The Riverfront Times Best Music Venue award, Off-Broadway is the perfect place to go see a show every night of the week in St. Louis. It’s a great size for seeing all types of shows: big enough for local acts to get excited about, and small enough to create the perfect intimate show for your favorite, slightly off-the-radar touring band. The down-home, friendly attitude of the staff makes it completely comfortable, and the owner working there most every night gives it a personal touch. There literally is something for everyone.

Writer’s Note: Steve Pohlman is my uncle, yes, but I still love this venue. The best in St. Louis by far. There was neither bias nor family pressure put into this article, other than my own love for the venue.

3511 Lemp Avenue
St Louis, MO 63118
(314) 773-3363

To view a complete schedule of upcoming events, click here.


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