By Steve Novotney
It’s about the talent, and it’s about the atmosphere it creates. Those are two primary reasons why Jason Miller and Becky Schmidt often offer live and local music at the River City Restaurant in downtown Wheeling.
Located on the corner of 14th and Main streets, River City is very popular for weddings and banquets, and Miller and Schmidt offer lunch and dinner services, and a full-service lounge area with 24 different beers on tap.
“It’s easy to work with a lot of different people for the entertainment at River City because we have so many talented musicians in the valley,” Miller said. “And it’s not just one kind of music, either. We’ve had everything across the board on the stage at River City.
“Most of the shows do not have a cover charge, and that’s because we want to make it as easy as possible for everyone involved,” he said. “That way, our patrons get free entertainment, the musicians know how much they will make for playing a show, and it allows us to create a great environment.”
“Blues Tuesday,” introduced at River City in July, is now a monthly feature thanks to Miller and Wheeling Heritage BluesFest director Bruce Wheeler.
“We have always had our ‘After Jams’ during BluesFest at River City, and the venue has always been well received from those in attendance,” Wheeler said. “So last summer I decided to have lead-up-to-BluesFest shows there on the five Tuesdays before BluesFest, and it worked out great.
“Because of the crowds and because of how easy it is to work with Jason and Becky, I’ve continued the ‘BluesTuesday’ series with one show per month,” he said. “And then in July, we’ll have the lead-up shows again because it’s a great setting, and the folks in this area seem to really enjoy Blues music. That makes it a win-win.”
At least one evening per weekend Miller and Schmidt offer a local musician or a band on the River City stage. This evening, Dec. 27th, the “Hit Play Duo” – with Ezra Hamilton and Jon Banco – will be the featured act. Last evening, Brett Cain performed at River City.
“I’ve always believed that the talent in this area needs more exposure, and the people we have in River City really seem to enjoy it,” Miller explained. “Being able to offer these musicians to our customers is one of the reasons why I went into the business I am in. I’ve been a fan of the local music scene since I was a kid.
“The success of the shows always depends on the talent of the musicians, and the talent level we have here makes it easy for us, and it also makes it possible to work with a lot of different people,” he said. “When you see weddings having local bands, you know you have talent in your area, and we have a lot of weddings here at River City that has had our local musicians perform.”
Banco, a saxophonist who graduated from Wheeling Park High School in 2000, also assists several local musicians with scheduling shows at various venues in the Wheeling and Weirton areas. He works with Miller on a weekly basis.
“I get the impression that offering the local bands and musicians is important to Jason (Miller),” Banco said. “And I think the best part is that he’ll give the new musicians a chance without proving anything before. That means a lot to someone just trying to get out so the public can hear them perform.
“The local music scene has fluctuated through the years, but in the past couple of years it’s grown, and it’s gotten pretty strong,” he said. “But there is no music scene without venue owners who are willing to offer it, and we’re lucky because we have a lot of people like Jason Miller who are not only willing to offer our music, but they do it on a consistent basis.”
Acts scheduled to appear at River City in the near future include Carl Pesi (Jan. 10), The New Age Adenas (Jan. 16), and Logan Wojick (Jan. 17). Miller is also pleased several other venues are offering the tunes and talents of live and local musicians.
“The number of places that are hiring our local musicians seems to increase all of the time, and I think it’s great that places like Undo’s, Market Vines, and Generations offer all of the live music that they do,” he said. “I think our local musicians need showcased as often as possible, and I’m just glad we’re able to do it.”
For more information concerning scheduled live performances, one can call 304-233-4555, or visit River City’s website at http://www.rivercitybanquets.com/ .
photos provided by Steve Novotney