Greetings from Knuckleheads

Neon sign paying homage to its past at Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri.

Neon sign paying homage to its past at Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri.

As much as I wanted to go on a nice, long vacation this year, a summer full of work prevented me from getting the R&R I really wanted. Despite that setback, I’ve been spending the last few months catching up with friends, eating tasty food, and listening to lots of music.

When I first moved to the Middle of the Map from New York City in late 2012, going to see musicians perform was one of the many things I would do to alleviate the culture shock and homesickness that would come over me without warning.

I always enjoyed going to concerts when I lived in New York City, but there’s something unusually comforting about going to a show in a new place. Everyone may be a complete stranger, but you still feel connected to them because you are all there for one reason: to listen to the music.

For someone who is still pretty new to Kansas City, I have experienced so much of what the city has to offer. However, the list of things I still want to do exceeds what I have done so far.

One place on my “To Go” list is a Honky Tonk Blues Roadhouse called Knuckleheads Saloon.

In 1997, local business owner and biker Frank Hicks bought the 100+ year old railroad boardinghouse to use as a showroom for his motorcycle business, F.O.G. Cycles.

Fun Fact: F.O.G. is short for “Fucking Old Guys”

Fun Fact: F.O.G. is short for “Fucking Old Guys”

In order to get people to come to his showroom, he started throwing street parties where he would provide live music and free beer. In 2001, he decided to open a small bar. As the bar grew, he turned F.O.G. into a music venue, which is what Knuckleheads is today.

For a music venue with such an interesting history that goes much deeper than my brief summary, it’s strange that only a handful of my friends have been there.

There’s also no simple way to get to Knuckleheads. I had a friend tell me the tragic story of how they got lost trying to get over there to see a show.

The most straightforward way to get there is on roads that cross train tracks. Unless you know the area or are good with a GPS, you might be sitting at a railroad crossing for awhile.

From Left to Right, waiting for the trains to pass by as I eat my Hot Mess (very tasty brisket sandwich) from Pigwich. Mural on the Knuckleheads Garage: the latest addition to the bar that was made possible by a Kickstarter campaign.

From Left to Right, waiting for the trains to pass by as I eat my Hot Mess (very tasty brisket sandwich) from Pigwich. Mural on the Knuckleheads Garage: the latest addition to the bar that was made possible by a Kickstarter campaign.

I’ll be honest, the only reason I know how to get down to that area without using a GPS or Google Maps is because one of my favorite food stands is right across the tracks from Knuckleheads: Pigwich.

Though the bar may be off the beaten path in a part of town that is mostly industrial complexes and factories, Knuckleheads draws a lot of great talent. One of the bands I recently went to see couldn’t say enough good things about the venue.

From Left to Right, Bruce Hornsby on the Outdoor Stage, Sarah Borges in the Gospel Lounge.

From Left to Right, Bruce Hornsby on the Outdoor Stage, Sarah Borges in the Gospel Lounge.

A Bruce Hornsby concert first brought me to Knuckleheads this summer. Unsurprisingly, the concert and venue exceeded my expectations.

Various Glowing Signs

What I did not expect was this bar to be such a visually interesting place. Everywhere you look there’s neon signs surrounded by faded liquor ads and photos of musicians.

Order Food

I think the reason I enjoy Knuckleheads so much is because I’ve never experienced live music in such a comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere. Though it does not feel familiar, I always feel welcome. It’s the kind of place you go to experience music that never stops being good. Also, I could spend a great deal of time looking at all the neon signs and ephemera!

This sign is one of my favorites. It’s located at the entrance of a large ladies room.

This sign is one of my favorites. It’s located at the entrance of a large ladies room.

Though a good amount of people I know do not understand my affinity for a place like this, I don’t care. It’s one of my favorite places to be on a cool summer night. Nothing is better than listening to great music under glowing neon signs, amongst passing trains with a whiskey in your hand.

Let_There_Be_Music

This post is part of Greetings from, a series in which Alphabettes share typographic curiosities from around the world. Look out for a passport stamp in the photos to spot posts from the series, or read them all here.