By: Wes Day | 9/20/15
A couple weeks ago, I found myself driving through beautiful downtown Helena with a brand new pack of guitar strings that needed to be put on before the gig that next night – so, I decided to stop off at a place I’ve been hearing a lot about called the Coal Yard to change my strings out over a beer.
When I walked in, Steve Norris – local singer-songwriter – was on stage in front of a crowd of smiling audience members intently listening to Steve as he picked a Guy Clark song I’ve always liked called “The Cape.” After he finished, he asked if I’d like to pick a few tunes – I didn’t know it, but I had just walked into Steve’s OpenMic. I played a few songs, and I was very happy with the stage, the crowd, the sound... It all had a touch of Nashville to me – where people are happy to listen to original music and lesser known covers.
The Coal Yard’s stage is designed beautifully, and aside from the aesthetics, the room is really designed with the acoustics in mind. First of all, the room has a great head start with hardwood floors and a tall ceiling – wooden beams exposed. You also might notice the stage’s creative use of cylindrical concrete molds which make up the back wall, and if you have any understanding of acoustics, you recognize the value that brings to the table by deflecting the sound while simultaneously reducing likelihood of feedback loops. On even closer inspection, I happened to notice that what I had originally took to be simply screen doors hanging on the walls had actually been filled in with foam and covered with fabric (sound treatment). Alright, that’s as technical as I’m going to get on you, but suffice it to say, they were thoughtful in their stage design, and it’s to everyone’s benefit – musicians and patrons alike.
Unfortunately, I haven’t tried their food yet, but I can attest to the fact that their bartender won’t leave you there waiting for service, and the waitresses were all very nice and attentive from what I could tell. In between listening to the talent on stage, I took note on several occasions as I watched faces chewing with smiles, so I’m looking forward to my next trip in so I can try out the menu.
Tips on parking: Parking is super easy. There are usually spaces in the front, but your best bet is to head to the back of the building.
Steve Norris’ Open Mic is on Wednesday Nights @ 6:30pm. Hope to see you there!