Have you ever walked into a public place and felt comfortable right away? A place that is part real life "Cheers" (where everybody knows your name...) part Chicago Blues Club, and part living room from your own house? I have. The name on the building says Old Skoolz Wine House & Pub and it's at 921 E. 8th Street in Sioux Falls.

From the first time I walked in the doors at the former Smoe's bar back in 2011, I knew that I would be spending a lot of time there. The owner, Lance King, is a lifelong Sioux Falls resident who worked in the former bar and when he got the chance, he bought the place and converted it to Old Skoolz. He wanted to have a place that would host great music. From local and regional singer/songwriters, to rockabilly, to jazz, to Americana, and especially the Blues, Old Skoolz has played host to some legendary performers. Remember last year when Walter Trout actually spent two nights in Sioux Falls?

Walter Trout
Photo Courtesy of Tim Breitkreutz

But Old Skoolz is so much more than the big name musicians who have played there. It's a place to gather with friends on a Wednesday after work and have a beer or two or a glass of wine and leave the workday behind. It's a place that you can scan the crowd on a show night and at one table, see a 70-year old couple with huge smiles on their faces enjoying the music, while two tables over, see a group of 20-somethings discovering a genre of music for the first time.

It's a place where you're greeted with a smile by King and his staff in a room that has a seating capacity of 70, so it has the intimacy of your own living room, and every seat is a good one. It's a place where the performers not only have no place to hide in between sets, they don't WANT it. They get off the stage and they are right there among us, chatting, signing autographs, taking pictures with fans. I can't tell you how many of these performers have remarked what a great thing we have going in Sioux Falls with Old Skoolz.

Scott Holt, who has played Old Skoolz a number of times, including an unannounced acoustic set following his main stage performance at JazzFest last summer, had this to say about Old Skoolz: "In a world that seems to minimize the importance of the Arts, it's so important to have a venue like Old Skoolz in Sioux Falls. The place is truly a gem. I'd like to ask all our friends in Sioux Falls and around the country for that matter, to express your support for Old Skoolz. There's not enough great venues in the world to allow even one to fade away!"

Scott Holt Band
Photo Courtesy of Tim Breitkreutz

This Friday and Saturday (January 31 and February 1) we'd like to invite everyone to stop by and show your support at Old Skoolz. If you're a regular like we are, or if it's a place you've always said "we should go sometime", this is the weekend to come check out this wonderful venue and help keep Old Skoolz alive.

Doors open at 7pm both nights with live music starting around 7:30pm. There will be raffles for prizes including:

--Old Skoolz sweetheart package with a bottle of Dom Perignon, two lead crystal wine glasses, fine chocolates and heart-shaped ruby necklace

--Tickets for any six show in the next six months

--Bobby Messano autograph package with autographed poster, CD and two tickets to his upcoming show in April

There will also be silent auction packages to bid on including:

--Toby Kane private two hour booking event

--Pairs of tickets to any six shows in the next six months with one $20 drink voucher per show

--Original artwork, “Red Prairie” inspired by Mat D’s song by the same title

Musicians scheduled to appear are:

Friday January 31:

--Ten Paces to Freedom – Sioux Falls duo that has played several times as a duo and as individual artists.

--Days of June – Sioux Falls Trio, on the edge of folk, bluegrass, Irish and Americana – Lance brought DOJ in to warm up for a couple bands and then extended a gracious invitation to headline on a weekend night – DOJ loves Old Skoolz!

--Toby Kane – singer/songwriter – acoustic guitar & vocals.  Toby has been a musical staple in Sioux Falls for a long time and he and Lance have a great report.  Toby will likely be MC’ing the event on Friday night.

Saturday February 1:

--Billy Lurken from Mitchell, SD – Singer/songwriter/acoustic and slide guitar/vocals.  Billy has been a gracious guest at Old Skoolz and is a huge fan of the venue and of Lance.  You've also heard Lurken on the Blues Fix at 6 and White Wall Sessions. Billy will be MC’ing on Saturday night.

--Mat D from Sioux City, IA.  Mat is an incredible singer/songwriter – storyteller, really.  Very poignant Americana for his solo acoustic guitar/vocal work.  Mat also plays with his band, Mat D and the Profane Saints, which more is more rock/southern rock.  Mat D has become a fixture at Old Skoolz, playing consistently every month or so and has built a Sioux Falls following.  Mat got very emotional about the thought of closing Old Skoolz and is donating a set of CDs to giveaway as a prize during the fundraiser.

--Signs of Life from Sioux Falls – vocally lead five piece original and b-side rock/Americana.  Signs of Life has played at least a half dozen times over the last couple years and chose to record their recent demo disk at Old Skoolz – Lance graciously opened the bar early on Sunday morning and hung out and served beer during the recording process… truly a blessing to the band and indicative of why Lance and Old Skoolz are so special.

It's worth noting that this fundraiser was not King's idea, but rather that of his staff. That's just the way Lance is. He figured that there would be a pre-determined date that only he would know and when the show was over that night, the doors would lock on Old Skoolz for the final time. Instead, a long time regular and the staff got together to plan this weekend's fundraiser. They reached out to the artists that will perform, they put together the raffles and auction packages, they got in touch with some of the national musicians who have made Old Skoolz a regular stop on their routes and some even building a route around a stop here to see 'family' to get some testimonials. Yes, the staff who volunteers their time to work at Old Skoolz.

The list of artists who have played Old Skoolz since opening in 2011 would be impressive if it was located in Chicago, Memphis or Austin, Texas. What King has done to bring legendary blues artists like the previously mentioned Walter Trout, to Candye Kane, Debbie Davies, Lil Ed & The Blues Imperials, Bobby Messano, Janiva Magness, and many others is impressive to say the least.

Old Skoolz is the place we met both Holt and a woman who calls Sioux Falls her 'second home', Sena Ehrhardt, long before they graced the JazzFest stage. When Sena was asked about Old Skoolz, she said: "Lance King and his staff have treated me and my band like family every time we have had the privilege to play at this incredible venue. In the music business there are champions who, one by one, help build a following for artists in new markets through their unyielding support and belief in the power of live music--and Lance and Old Skoolz are truly champions in this sense. There is something special about this place; an energy, a warmth that is not found everywhere. On the night's I've played there, I've looked out in the crowd and felt like I was among dear friends."

Sena and ed
Photo Courtesy of Crash/B102.7

Thanks to Lance and Old Skoolz, we've met so many talented people whose star is rising just like Sena: Cassie Taylor, Samantha Fish, Nick Moss, Davina & The Vagabonds, Cole Allen, Terry Quiett Band, Laurie Morvan, Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch, Michael Lee Firkins, Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo, Levee Town, Kelly Richey, Harper & Midwest Kind...the list goes on and on and on.

I've gotten to know Lance over the past three years and consider him a friend. I don't know too many people who are as passionate about the music and keeping the 'scene' alive, going so far as to take a construction job during the day to 'support his blues habit'. To the amazing staff that works there...on a volunteer basis...because they believe in Lance and Old Skoolz, and the chance to hear and meet so many incredibly talented, grounded, kind people as we find in the blues. It truly is a family.

Every summer, I have the honor and pleasure of sitting out in Yankton Trail Park and emceeing JazzFest in front of what has become over 100,000 people over those days. You all come out to see and hear some amazing musicians, some of which have played Old Skoolz. The same artist you saw in the park, but had to sit 100 yards away from the stage, plays in a venue the same size and intimacy as a large living room. Plus at Old Skoolz, someone is there to bring you another beer or wine!

It's amazing to talk to performers who headline festivals across Europe, who tour the well known Blues Clubs from Kansas City to New York to Memphis to Chicago and have them tell me, not Lance or the staff, but me and anyone else in the crowd who will listen, how much they love playing at Old Skoolz and they can't wait to come back and play here again...in Sioux Falls, South Dakota...in the winter...to a room that is completely sold out at 70 people. That tells you a LOT about Old Skoolz and the people who make it 'home', not only for the musicians, but especially for the patrons. A place where King may sit at an open chair at your table to have a beer with you, talk about the Blues and the band stops over to have a laugh or tell a story.

SHB Lance and us
Photo Courtesy of Tim Breitkreutz

On the same weekend Sioux Falls is losing a live music venue as Boonies closes its doors, you can help keep a great live music venue open. Don't wait for a 'next time', because a next time is never guaranteed. We know people's lives are busy. We're not asking you to stay the whole night or weekend. But plan on dropping in, having one or two, hearing some very talented local and regional musicians, meeting the people that make Old Skoolz one of the top Blues/Live Music venues not only in the region, but to hear the artists tell it, it's one of the best in the entire country.

Losing any live music venue is sad. To lose Old Skoolz would be a crime. Help keep the heartbeat going this Friday and Saturday nights at Old Skoolz in Sioux Falls.

Popa Chubby
Popa Chubby photo by Crash/B102.7
Candye Kane and Laura Chavez
Candye Kane and Laura Chavez photo by Crash/B102.7
Kelly Richey and Freekbass
Kelly Richey and Freekbass photo by Tim Breitkreutz
Samantha Fish
Samantha Fish courtesy of Rich Szameit
Lil Ed & The Blues Imperials
Lil Ed & The Blues Imperials photo courtesy of Rich Szameit
Bobby Messano
Bobby Messano Courtesy of Rich Szameit
Janiva Magness
Janiva Magness courtesy of Rich Szameit
Old Skoolz
Photo Courtesy of Sarah King

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