The Riot Room has risen to the tore-up top of rock-bardom.
When a new rock bar sprang up in Westport earlier this year, the scene held its breath to see what would happen. After all, attempts to revive the legendary Hurricane at the same location had recently failed.
But the Riot Room has been living up to its name and earning a reputation as Westport’s true rock bar.
If the Record Bar is where you go to see important shows, the Riot Room is where you go to get tore up, dance and live through some stories — like the time I watched a crazy-drunk 21-year-old battle with a hulking bouncer. Using all of her limbs, she braced herself in the patio doorway like a cartoon cat, yelled for her discarded shoes and was finally tossed out, almost literally.
Whatever you see going down at the Riot Room, you’re bound to be in the company of musicians, and not just while they’re onstage. Most of the staff members are or have been in bands. General Manager Tim Gutschenritter and his brother, Dallas, a doorman, used to be in National Fire Theory; Architects guitarist Keenan Nichols frequently tends bar.
Riot Room is also just the kind of place where musicians like to hang out. “We realize that music and alcohol are probably two of the best things in the world — especially when mixed together in mass quantities and at high volumes,” bartender Nate “Dutch” Humphrey told me on my most recent visit, which was tamer than usual.
Last Thursday, the RR hosted a cigarette-company-sponsored event with free food on the back patio and indie-rock bands, including local group Lights and Siren playing inside. “It’s like the old Hurricane but cleaner,” Lights and Siren frontwoman Anna Cole said, adding, “Not too clean.”
The bathrooms can be hazardous, and I’ve seen bouncers mopping puke off the patio a time or two.
But that’s to be expected at a true rock bar, where grit and good times go hand in hand.