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Rockin' in the WRV

Sam Bush at River Run.

Sam Bush at River Run.

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Bars and Clubs

Close your eyes. Cast your mind back to your early twenties (perhaps you’re still there). One night you and your posse go out to see a really great band. It turns out to be the night of the year, a defining memory, a night of music to add to your life’s sound track.

I can see myself. I’m at Whiskey Jacques’ in downtown Ketchum. It’s the spring of 1991 and rain drenches the Valley outside. Inside the bar, it’s steaming. I’m 23, something-on-the-rocks in one hand while the other sways deliriously over my head and my eyes are half closed. On the stage, Futu Futu is covering The Police’s “Driven to Tears.” Guitars and girls are screaming. I am transported.

Ernest Hemingway drank here. In fact, there is a large portrait, hanging over the bar, of Hemingway and Gary Cooper. I’m dancing in grand company.

Sixteen years later, owner Karin Martin tells me Hemingway is the reason she bought Whiskey Jacques’.

“It used to be called the Alpine Saloon,” she says. “Hemingway mentions it in two of his books, which motivated me to buy the real estate. I felt it should be preserved as a historical place.”

This year, Whiskey’s (as it’s referred to by the locals) celebrates its 30th year. Meanwhile, the bands keep coming.

“We’ve had some really great bands come through here,” says Martin. “String Cheese Incident played here. The English Beat. Jude Bowerman plays here quite frequently.”

On the other end of the phone, I nod enthusiastically: As his website proclaims, Bowerman is a little Michael Franti, Ben Harper, and Stevie Ray Vaughn all rolled into one great sound. I try to hit Whiskey’s whenever Bowerman is in town.

The quality of the acts Martin signs with her booking manager, Kristen Derrick, is a testament to the club’s reputation as the nightspot in Ketchum.

Songs of the South

Certainly, one has to venture farther down the Valley to find another hoppin’ rock spot. The Mint, on Main Street in Hailey, regularly offers live bands and disco on the top floor, as well as a full bar and billiards hall on the bottom.

Summer ’06. My buddy Bruce and I catch an incredible show at The Mint. The alt-country Cross Canadian Ragweed pack a bursting-at-the-seams house, while front man Cody Canada wails bona fide Oklahoma Red Dirt rock. Balancing a bottle of Wild Turkey on a huge speaker, from which he periodically takes a slug in true rock-star style, Canada produces unbelievable, gritty Southern vocals. The audience surrenders. In this town, I’ve noticed show-goers are never shy to get on the dance floor and pretty soon we’re sweating it up with the rest of the crowd.

A few weeks later, I’m back at The Mint to see Mickey and The Motorcars. I barely make it through the doors before the house sells out. This time, I venture in with a little trepidation. Imagine the scene . . . single girl, packed bar. Shortly after, I’m insulated by a pack of girlfriends and we’re away. The Motorcars are a local band from Challis, Idaho, who relocated to Austin, Texas, and are currently making quite a name for themselves. Always playing to a packed house, The Motorcars cruised through Hailey as part of a 200-date tour.

If you think live music stops at Ketchum and Hailey, think again. Local rock hound Pete Prekeges, owner of the Silver Dollar Saloon in Bellevue, is committed to booking a live act every Friday night.

“The main thing is to be consistent so people know they can come here every week and catch a live band,” Prekeges says with infectious enthusiasm. “Consistency is what makes it great.”

Prekeges, however, is dedicated to the Wood River Valley’s local musicians. “Our Valley is full of special people who want to move here. We use local bands because there is such a wealth of talent right here.”

So don’t be fooled into thinking Bellevue isn’t happening.

“Hey, we’ve got our own Bar-muda triangle right here in Bellevue,” Prekeges laughs. “You can eat a great meal at Mama’s [Inez] or Mahoney’s and then come down to the Silver Dollar and see the Kim Stocking Band—she has such a beautiful voice—or the Mark Slocum Band.” >>>


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