The sign out front doesn’t say “Under New Management” in so many words, but anyone familiar with Missoula’s nightlife wouldn’t need much discernment to figure out some new sort of ordinary was taking shape last Thursday at a popular bar on Ryman Street. The locale, once known as the rock-oriented Ritz and more recently as the sports bar Hammer Jack’s, is now known as the Badlander.
On stage was Jucifer, a man and a woman, each one’s face obscured by hair and both ringed by a wall of amplification 10-feet tall. Their music, a fountain of crude oil sludge rock, was an experience more tactile than sonic. And, armed with blinding halogen lights and only too willing to aim them at the audience, Jucifer made a very confrontational brand of music.
Some of the bar’s patrons clearly felt confronted. One clean-cut fellow in an aquamarine polo shirt executed a 15-second walkthrough that ended with the swiftness of someone who knew every exit and had never been gladder to use one. A young woman led a group of three toward the passage to the adjoining Golden Rose, clutching her chest as though suffering a heart attack.
The Golden Rose, the casino and lounge facing West Broadway and connected by a winding hallway to the Badlander, was a refuge for smokers banned from the nonsmoking bar and those whose ears preferred the melodious strains of “Hotel California” playing overhead.
The Badlander’s crowd of 60 or so seemed to be enjoying themselves, even if inhabiting what a sign in the window declared “A WORK IN PROGRESS!” The same sign promised artwork, furniture and a new soundsystem (since installed); other intended improvements include a new tenant in the attached restaurant and a DJ lounge in the basement Palace Billiards space. Those changes will come incrementally, says Chris Henry, one of the venue’s four new principals and the author of the sign. He says the group aims for a grand opening this time next year.
Certainly, the Badlander does not yet sport a new car smell. Still, joviality aplenty at its reinvention was evident, an aftereffect of what Henry dubbed the evening’s “sonic cleansing.”