Given what I’ve already admitted about this bar, I wasn’t so sure how much more I’d have to say. Before, I boasted: “I have been to bars that try persistently hard to persuade patrons to come back. Some bars bring down the drink prices— ten cent drafts. Some bars offer free food —chocolate cupcakes with pretty frosting on a platter for free. Down on Main in Wheeling, WV doesn’t have to do anything different to get butts on the barstool.
Down on Main is personally, proportionate to my particular pleasures, the best bar I’ve been to in town, and not just because of the free bowls of chips on the bar and the busy back porch, but based on the bands and the warm, welcoming women and men who make up the market. It is the home of the longest continuously running Open Mic Jam Night in the Ohio Valley — acoustic on Wednesdays and electric on Thursdays.”
I came to conclude, though, that I had more commentary. Nestled in North Wheeling, Down on Main has an amazing atmosphere and customers consistently come back to the comfortable canteen. There are no pretenses in the place – it’s friendly, not fake, cordial not confrontational. The regulars respect each other, and I am absolutely in awe of some of the singers that sustain the live music scene there.
I can sit on a stool and reminisce while Uncle Eddie and Robin sing, be captivated by Randy Keener, and be soothed by the sounds of someone without being bothered. When someone does say hi it’s not a prelude to a pick up line, but a genuine want to shake the hand of the person they’re sitting beside. I can play pool with people who will remember my name and return a stranger’s smile without wondering what their intention is. I can be anonymous but not alone, sit by myself but still be social, come by my lonesome but never be lonely, have heart to hearts with fellows I’ve just friended.
Behind the bar at Down on Main, it’s a one man show – the only staff is Dickie Pultz. He smiles up at me to highlight some history, “As far as its history, live music.” He seems busy and I don’t want to be a bother so I take what I can get. I’ve never really seen him say too much. He begins opening bottles again.
Being that I have already had so much to say, I don’t need much more information than that. I turn back around to the performer, pick up one handful of popcorn and salivate over the smell of the pizza. This pub is a place that keeps me coming back. On this particular night it is Travis Hoard who has my attention.
He charms me with wit and wins me over before his set even starts. We both have a passion for politics and for quoting comedians and we carry on a conversation that is very candid. He makes a meaningful first impression for someone I just met. As he’s waiting to take his turn on open mic night he generously picks up a bass and begins playing with the performer prior to him. Later in the night he also played keyboard and drums and I found out he was not only fascinating and funny, but facile.
Travis Hoard is not only easy on the eyes, but he’s easy on the ears as well. During his cover of “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley he was open about his opinions, improv-ing, “Maybe I’m crazy, just like Michelle Bachman.” During his cover of “Teflon” by The Mars Volta he also added another ad-lib, “Let the wheels burn / let the wheels burn/ stack the tires to the neck/with your gay hate inside.” It was his originals that gave his real outlook, though.
He sung a song “about his ex-girlfriend,” and I loved the lyrics: “This is ridiculous, how much you fuss / …please shut up.” He admits, “Deep down I always knew you were a whore,” and with my favorite lyric of the night, concludes with a memory from a past Halloween, “you drunkenly stumbled/you drunkenly mumbled/with your halo….” Later on he lamented, as he covered Jeremy Batten’s “Staggeringly Beautiful,” “She flirts to have something to do/what can I say/she’ll love you for an hour/just to throw you away.” However, it’s an instrument he plays in another band that really brought him to my attention.
Travis shares his saxophone skills in The Trainjumpers. Having been compared to The Rolling Stones and Dire Straits, The Trainjumpers have consistently had critical success. Drummer Brian Gorby, bassist Scott Harkness, saxophonist Travis Hoard and guitarists Matt Heusel and Clifton Landis recently released their third album, “Wide Eyed Tragic Myth.” Self-described as “original roots jam reggae rock and roll,” this Ohio Valley band is one more reason to really like the live music scene in Wheeling, West Virginia. Named after the Bob Seger song “Mainstreet,” Down On Main lives up to the lyrics: “And sometimes even now, when I’m feeling lonely and beat / I drift back in time and I find my feet / Down on Main Street / Down on Main Street.”