The Wild Buffalo
Before Craig Jewell became a part-owner of the Wild Buffalo, the bar was primarily a blues venue and had been struggling. “It just got to the point where he [owner John Goodman] needed to sell it,” Jewell said. “When we bought the venue, we pretty much had to make it or break it.”
Jewell’s familiarly with the Wild Buffalo stemmed from his old band, Broken Bottle Band, which performed at the bar. “We had played in smaller venues but we knew that we could pack the venue because we had accumulated a strong pull in Bellingham,” he said. “But I practically had to beg in order to place in the space because [Goodman] was so unsure about music other than his own generation’s.” After a streak of reluctance, Goodman gave Jewell’s band the opportunity to perform at the Wild Buffalo. “The night we played they had record ticket sales and attendance,” he said. “In a way that’s how I built trust with him.”
At that time Jewell began helping with promotions and events for the venue, and Goodman was interested in selling it. In October of 2005, the bar changed hands, with Jewell, Roger Mills, and an anonymous benefactor becoming part-owners.
Aside from booking his own band’s previous gigs, Jewell was not well-versed in how to line up shows and events in the venue. “I only really booked shows for my band for about a year,” he added. “But my dad is a Frank Sinatra impersonator so I’ve always been exposed to networking in that sense.”
Jewell said the Wild Buffalo sticks to a varied regiment of music each week. “We really try to offer a different show each night to make our calendar as diverse as possible,” he said. “That way we don’t over-saturate our venue with one specific genre. We try to see what people are listening to, what’s relevant, and, above all, what’s good.”
While the Wild Buffalo caters to all musical styles, Jewell is most impressed with how the electronica scene has developed over the years. “It’s actually pretty funny that dub-step is so popular these days,” he said. “We had a couple of dub-step DJs open for Acorn Project a long time ago and I remember thinking, ‘This doesn’t make any sense, what the hell is going on?’”
Wild Buffalo’s dub-step night, smartly called Womp?, celebrated its first anniversary last month. While searching for relevant and entertaining bands, Jewell also builds the schedule based on Western Washington University’s calendar. He takes breaks, midterms, and summer quarters into account to ensure strong turnouts. “You never know, though,” he said. “Sometimes the weather can turn on you and it affects how many people come to the show. The weather has destroyed many shows.”
Jewell believes that the Wild Buffalo caters to a variety of tastes without compromising the quality of the music. “We aren’t like other venues,” Jewell continued. “Each night is an independent show that has to be promoted and branded separate from one another because they cater to different audiences.”
Plans are in motion to expand the capacity of the Wild Buffalo in order to book top-tier acts in the future, Jewell added. “We’re going to take out a few walls and put in a few more bathrooms but we’ll be able to offer more as a result,” he said.
The Wild Buffalo is located at 208 W. Holly Street. For more information, call 746-8733, visit wildbuffalo.net, or follow them on Facebook.