By Amber Bernhardt
After 30 some years of soul searching I am proud to admit that I grew up right here in this burg. But back at the age of 18, I couldn’t wait to skip town and make a break for the door as soon as I was able. After somehow snagging a BFA in Fargo, I made my way to Chicago where I happily hung my hat as a creative producer and promoter. While working in film, theatre, dance and music for many years in the wonderful Windy City, I fell in everlasting love with the cultural mecca and made it my business to indulge in all things arts and entertainment.
The A&E scene in Chitown is thriving and I was privileged to be employed with a PR Marketing firm specializing in the industry. There I rubbed elbows with the elite and experienced their work first hand. Chicago holds the best that the arts have to offer. But when it came to entertainment, while my cultured clacker friends sought out spin clubs in high heels and short skirts, this country fried steak platter favored the smoky, smelly alley bars. There was nothing artful about those places but in many ways I preferred those watering holes to the glitz and glamour of the rest of the city.
So when a family fiasco found me unexpectedly back in my home town after more than I decade, I said to myself, “Well, at least BisMan is full of dive bars.”
Bismarck Mandan was eating my dust long before my 21st birthday so while I was aware of its legendary drinking dens, including The Silver Dollar and Our Place Tavern, I hadn’t really had the privilege of partaking in their various festivities. Upon my return to the area in my 30’s, complete with a Chitown chip on my shoulder, I was determined to make the best of it and find myself the perfect place to enjoy an ice cold PBR in a can.
As such, one night at The Last Call Bar, I made an amazing discovery: live music. And not just ANY live music. An actual five piece rock band. And a great one at that. It was the best of both worlds: a dingy dive bar and eclectic entertainment. A treat rarely tasted in big bad Chicago. I was home. As I grew in my local arts job and expanded my network in the community, I realized that the outstanding talent and creativity of the region wasn’t limited to music. All around us were emerging performance and visual artists from all media busting their butts to entertain onlookers and make their marks doing it.
What I’ve realized is that there are just as many gifted artists and entertainers in BisMan as there are in Chicago. What they don’t have is exposure. And conversely, so few people even know of the endless creativity happening right under their noses. I’m here to tell you, artists, that people DO want to participate in your offerings so put them out there. And I’m also telling you, public, that there ARE wonderful opportunities for you to be entertained in our city and it’s your responsibility to get out and take advantage of them.
The point of all this is that I came back here certain that I would be bored out of my mind. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In Bismarck, North Dakota, I am more artistically fulfilled and wildly entertained by creativity than I have been in my entire life. With this knowledge and this column, I endeavor to help performers and patrons bridge the aforementioned gap. To teach artists to promote and to show audiences where to find them. So I invite you now to saddle up on your stool, crack open your Peeber, and join me for the party.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not a review. It’s a revelation.
(For the complete article, visit Amber Rae’s blog at: http://redamberrae.wordpress.com/dive-bar-diva/. Also be sure to “like” Dive Bar Diva on Facebook and listen to/watch for her upcoming radio and television shows on local stations URL Radio and DMA/CATV12.)