Go Back Stage for live bands, sultry dancers at the House of Blues at Showboat.
For headline acts like this Friday’s “ladies night out” event featuring three sensual R&B stars, patrons would head up the long escalator, past the Foundation Room, and enter the House of Blues’ Music Hall.
For those simply searching for a place to sit back and chill — or perhaps continue the party after the headline acts are over — one could do a whole lot worse than hangin’ at HOB’s Back Stage lounge. Live bands and house DJs share the Back Stage spotlight every Friday and Saturday night (8pm-4am), while tempting, tantalizing and talented dancers (10pm-3am) grace a strategically placed set of large, lit-up square platforms. VIP bottle service is available at a seating area of overstuffed couches and chairs in front of a small stage and dance floor, or at tables adjacent to HOB’s poker room. Every Sunday a large projection screen fronts the stage, and the lounge is converted into a sports-bar of sorts with food and drink specials during all the football action.
Back Stage is part of a recent restructuring of that section of Showboat’s gaming level. Live cover bands used to perform in a sort of carved-out section of the HOB restaurant across the hall. Now there’s more of a spread-out lounge atmosphere where poker tables and an elevated, 16-seat (electronic poker-equipped) bar are more an integral part of the whole Back Stage ambience.
Many southern New Jersey cover bands play at Back Stage on weekends, among them the five-person group Garden State Radio that’s slated to appear there Friday night, Dec. 10. On Saturday, Dec. 11, it’s the four-man band Formerly Known As, which is also a semi-regular at Ri-Ra Irish Pub in The Quarter (coming there the following Friday, Dec. 17), and is the house band every Sunday at noted Northeast Philly sanctuary Sweeney’s Saloon.
Garden State Radio plays mostly pop-rock hits from the ’80s through today, and is comprised of 20-somethings Kelly Caruso as lead vocalist, guitarist/vocalists Drew Koerner and Brian Pascoe, bassist Stephan Badyna and drummer Ryan Kelly. They have roughly an 80-song repertoire, perform in about a half-dozen states as far north as Vermont, and have a special New Year’s Eve gig lined up at Back Stage on Dec. 31.
“[Back Stage] is a lot different from your typical nightclub because you’ve got the casino crowd, and usually if it’s a good night at the casino, Back Stage will also be packed,” says Kelly. “It’s a mixed crowd because of the casino environment, but there’s definitely some familiar faces that we see each time we’re there too.
“We love playing there because they make it easy for us and [the staff] know what they’re doing. That’s not always the case, especially in the big cities like Philly and New York City. Some of those places can be a free-for-all.”
While Back Stage’s dance floor is somewhat small (about 15 by 30 feet), patrons are welcomed and encouraged to boogie down to the beats if they’re so inclined.
“It’s funny, there’s this one guy who’s been following us around since the [A.C.] beach-bar scene [during the summer]. He’s an Asian guy who goes by Moon, and you’ll never see somebody dance like this guy dances. It almost resembles a seizure. He doesn’t stop and has the best time, and he helps bring in a crowd with how much energy he has.”
Generally DJ Redline and DJ Aiden Scott keep things lively at Back Stage on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively, from 8pm-4am, spinning hits between the live bands’ sets that run from 10pm-2am.
“This is the best part-time job you could have,” says Kelly. “You meet the coolest people.”
Where: House of Blues at Showboat
Hours: Friday & Saturday, 8pm-4am; Sundays 12:30-7:30pm during football season.
Cover charge: none
On the Web: hobatshowboat.com
The truth is, our region has been a live-music mecca since the early 1900s, when cats like Eubie Blake and Eddie Cantor hung out for summers and performed at local clubs. Decades later the Atlantic City jazz scene was as hot as they come, with internationally heralded performers from Billy Eckstine and Louis Armstrong playing residencies at some of the hottest clubs on the East Coast, namely the venues on Atlantic City’s fabled Kentucky Avenue — all of them are gone now — including the Club Harlem.
The guide is destined to soon become the place for local booking agents and promoters to check out local bands and listen to songs and watch video.
"The Local Music Guide is a great idea. I believe it’s very important for the musicians to work together and support each other, rather than just protect their own ‘piece of the pie.’ The South Jersey music scene seems to be growing stronger and stronger, and hopefully this guide will make it easier for all involved — clubs, fans and musicians alike — to continue that growth and bring back the ‘glory days’ once more.”
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