Dave's Dark Horse Tavern celebrates turning sweet 16
Published: Thursday, April 14, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 14, 2011 23:04
Dave's Dark Horse Tavern feels like the definitive college bar as soon as you step over the worn threshold. Yet from the rich wooden tap handles at the bar, to the smell of whiskey and Mississippi State memorabilia festooning the mortar and brick walls, Dave's has enough flavor to set itself apart from the usual drab bar scene.
The Tavern is run by Dave Hood, who has worked at the location since 1991 (then under the moniker The Bully III). He is celebrating his 16th year of owning the business this Friday and Saturday with a lampoon take on MTV's "Super Sweet Sixteen." It's easy to see how the Dark Horse stays in business. Being in a college town definitely helps, but Hood said he feels there is more to it than that.
"It's really a great vibe all the time around here. People really enjoy the food here and keep coming back for more," a statement emboldened by the best month in 16 years for the Tavern earlier this year in January.
This weekend will showcase the palpable energy Dave's Dark Horse Tavern instills in patrons with its Super Sweet 16th Anniversary.
"I won't say a lot, but the place will be appropriately decorated," Hood said with a smile.
If MTV's fanfare is used as a foundation, let your imagination run wild. The entertainment for this weekend is wide and varied. Friday night, Ben and Nathan will open for Cold Freakin' Winter, and on Saturday, Courtney and Sarah will open for Joe Whaley. I had a chance to sit down with each group of musicians for a brief interview about its history with the Tavern.
Ben Lewis and Nathan Leigh are an acoustic duo from Natchez, Miss. and are both students at MSU. They met in 2010 while performing and immediately clicked. They play classic covers from Michael Jackson to Alanis Morrisette and both sing and compose. Lewis and Leigh both said they agree they are playing just for fun right now and will take anything as it comes. The duo also said the Tavern is by far their favorite venue. Lewis has his own website at benlewismusic.com.
Cold Freakin' Winter is Josh Winter on bass, Caleb Frink on vocals and guitar, Justin McKenzee on drums and John Cole also on vocals and guitar. The band members are from the Ripley/Meridian area of Mississippi and are no strangers to the Dark Horse. A mainly '90s cover band, CFW plays a mesh of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Third Eye Blind and Better Than Ezra, to name a few. Winter, McKenzee and Cole lived and played together before adding Frink to the mix. CFW isn't afraid to indulge the audience either. One of the band's covers is Cee-Lo Green's hit of choice expletives "F*** You." In asking for a sentence to sum up the band, Cole said he and Winter came to a conclusion.
"These are the songs you played when you pulled up to your first day of high school." said Cole.
Courtney Kinzer and Sarah Ulmer, another talented MSU student duo, are yet another example of musicians who gravitated toward each other to join up for crowd-pleasing performances. Kinzer, a classically-trained cellist from Washington state, met Ulmer, a self-taught guitarist and lyricist, at Dave's and the two have been playing together ever since. The two ladies are their own worst critics in such a refreshing and comical way. Kinzer enjoys the welcoming attitude from the Southern crowd, especially coming from a strict, critiquing background in classical music. She actually had never played and sang at the same time until she got to Mississippi. Ulmer taught herself guitar just this past year and played an impromptu, untitled song in the back room of Dave's. It's plain to see how her melodious guitar and strong silvery voice compliment Kinzer's voice and cello.
Joe Whaley and his band will also be performing at Dave's this weekend. Based in the Columbus/Starkville area, this Americana rock band will be promoting its new record at The Tavern. One Side of the Story is the debut album of Joe Whaley under Whaley's own label, One-Sided Records. Rounding out the members is John Staggers on drums, Paul and Lee Graham on bass and guitar, respectively, Joe Whaley on vocals and Jerry Carnatharn on guitar. They've played at several places in Mississippi including the Market Street Music Festival and have plans to play in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. The band's debut album is now up on iTunes and you can visit Whaley's website at joewhaley.com.
Dave's Dark Horse Tavern has a packed schedule lined up for this weekend that is sure to please all who attend. Hood is also a big proponent of giving out specials offers, free drinks and passes and maybe even answers to trivia questions on Twitter @davesdarkhorse and at davesdarkhorse.com. Also this weekend, there will be power hour each night between acts and only a $5 cover. So bring your friends this weekend to Dave's Dark Horse Tavern and you are sure to enjoy good food, music and maybe even start a couple of Dark Horse tales to call your own.