Backstage: 5 things you need to know
1 Five years after opening the House of Blues as part of a $65 million expansion project, Showboat Casino-Hotel added to its rock 'n' roll repertoire in 2010 with Backstage. The new nightlife destination is just next to the elevator that leads up to the concert hall and brings free live entertainment to the casino floor, welcoming top-notch cover bands as well as nationally known artists to the same stage every weekend.
2 Despite the name, you don't need any special clearance to get in. Part bar, part casino lounge, the venue's open to the rest of the casino floor, so there's no cover and no dress code, not to mention no specific entrance or exit. Instead, tables that include poker, blackjack and roulette are only a few feet from the dance floor, so gamblers - some of whom are concert headliners themselves - bob their heads and tap their feet to the tunes, if not outright sing along.
3 While there's always a decent crowd on weekends, the party really hits the next level after concerts end upstairs. When a big House of Blues show lets out, such as the recent Third Eye Blind concert, the elevator carries people right past Backstage and seemingly a third of the people head over to check out what's going on. In that way, it serves as both pre-game and after-party for concertgoers, as well as a destination in and of itself for everyone else.
4 In addition to the DJs and party bands that play several sets from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. each weekend, the venue occasionally hosts chart-topping performers to play free shows. Earlier this year, it welcomed Ed Kowalczyk, the former lead singer of alternative rock band Live, and the Gin Blossoms. Oct. 15, it will bring in a newly reorganized Fuel, whose hit songs "Shimmer," "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)" and "Falls On Me" earned them a loyal following.
5 On Thursday nights, the bar spices up its routine of rock bands and pop/hip-hop DJs with a night of strictly Latin music. With Hispanic DJs and bands, it brings an extra flair and replaces the blaring sound of guitars with the rhythms of merengue, bachata and pipico.
Heard on a Friday night: Split Decision turned the dance floor from empty to overflowing after it played, in succession, "My Body" by Young the Giant, "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele and "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People. In between the band's three sets, DJ B. Lee kept the crowd up and alive, transitioning seamlessly from old school hip hop to the latest remixes of modern hits.
Scene at midnight: With the band starting its second set, the audience got more involved and the bar area started to fill. As the energy grew, a rock concert at the House of Blues let out and a stream of people came down the elevator, all of whom looked over at the party happening below them. Many of them looked surprised and came to join, jumping right in the midst of raucous mix. Meanwhile, dancers on raised platforms move seductively to the beating drums and wailing guitars.
What They're Saying
Lauren Murphy, 23, Washington Township
"It's fresh and exciting. Pretty much anyone could have a good time there."
Frank LaPalomento, 24, Washington Township
"It's the only spot in town for live music up to 4 a.m. The party never stops."
Where: Showboat Casino Hotel
Days/Hours: 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Thursdays to Saturdays
Dress code: None
Drinks: Beers, $3 and up; mixed drinks, $5 and up; shots, $3 and up
Demographic: All ages
Club Owner: Showboat Casino-Hotel
Debuted: Summer 2010
The look: Just next to the elevator that leads to the House of Blues, a series of deep-red arrows painted on the walls point to the bar, stage and lounge that make up the venue just next to rows of table games. The four-sided bar is raised and overlooks the wooden dance floor below, with a stage against the wall that is adjacent to an area of tables and couches in the corner of the open room. Like much of the casino, it mixes modern elements with baroque architecture, including top-notch sound equipment set up below ornate wooden ceilings and chandeliers.
Please remember to always drink responsibly