At first it is nearly imperceptible — a small club on a now-busy four-lane in posh south Lafayette. A stone’s throw away from Our Lady of Lourdes and Women’s & Children’s hospitals. Oasis Sports Bar is a gateway between the nouveau riche of Lafayette and the nouveau-nouveau riche of Youngsville.
It is here at the Oasis that owner Robert Guercio holds his newest musical court and carries a roster of talented musicians.
Photos by Robin May
|Musician Kelly Keeling performs on Monday nights at Oasis.|
Guercio is also one of the owners of The Greenroom downtown, over a dozen miles and a clientele away from Oasis. Next door to Greenroom is The Office, where he owned his first club, 307. This is also where this writer learned to sharpen her incisors on the meaty, no-treaty world of live music — in deference to full disclosure. Guercio now functions as general manager.
To understand how tough it is to open a profitable live music venue, do this: take your monthly bills and double them. Now imagine you live with at least 10 relatives who draw paychecks for taking care of your house. Now you have to pay bands and a sound guy and organize it all.
This is crucial to understanding why so many live music venues have been squashed in Lafayette — the money and often support from the city as well as patrons simply isn’t there. But men like Guercio want to see it, and furthermore hear it, at any cost.
“We offer an upscale atmosphere with live entertainment six nights a week,” says Guercio. “We share our net profits as payment to the musicians. They work hard to promote their shows, and we complement their efforts. We are building a home for musicians.”
Kelly Keeling is certainly calling Oasis home. Musicians like him are a big reason Oasis has turned from hardscrabble barroom to an elegantly relaxed place. Keeling is the newest rock in Oasis’ slingshot to snap Acadiana back into live music consciousness. A native son, Keeling left Lafayette at 17 years old after being signed to Atlantic Records with the band Baton Rouge. That was in 1987. Now, with contributions to more than 50 albums later, Keeling is back and resting his boots at Oasis.
You can find Keeling on the stage here every Monday for what’s been dubbed “piano night.” Keeling laughs and mentions how much he loves performing, and it shows. His performances, like his smile and, to be frank, his generously ringleted hair, are buoyant and persuasive. For a man who began as a kid playing with the band Baton Rouge and went on to perform with Tran-Siberian Orchestra, Dokken and Alice Cooper, as well as scoring movie sound tracks, you would think he would find this stage small beneath him. Not so.
Every Monday when Keeling performs (save the times he may be called away on tour) he will offer his stage up to guests. Sometimes he has dueling pianos, sometimes he invites women like Julie Williams on stage. Julie is a sprite of the bayou with a bright, soulful singing voice, and guests like her are what make Mondays at the Oasis so appealing — the reliance on talented surprises that Keeling whips out.
The music being scheduled at the Oasis reflects its new look. Gone are the harsh lighting and white walls marred with years of nicotine.
|Owner Robert Guercio and sound engineer Buddy Duchamp have created a haven for musicians at Oasis Sports Bar.|
An 18-foot-by-12-foot stage was built to the left when you walk in through the beer garden entrance. The walls are a deep brownish-golden hue, and small round tables are huddled in front of the ample sound board run by Buddy Duchamp. Acoustic panels dot the walls and ceiling around the artwork to enhance the sound and make it rich without blasting your hair back from intensity. There are nine flatscreen televisions with two of them pointed outside for maximum viewing. Heleaux’s Grocery across the street provides them with the meat for their burgers — food is served all day and evening, mostly fried appetizers. “We joke that we are a sports bar with live music six nights a week,” says Guercio.
The location of Oasis, miles away from another music venue, makes this place stand out. It’s not the old Oasis nor is it exactly the new 307, but something entirely fresh. It’s a new start. Let’s hope other people who love music can follow suit. Maybe the farther away from downtown Lafayette business owners find themselves the more support they can receive from a public grateful for live music and musicians happy to find a home.
Oasis Sports Bar
2921 Verot School Road
Happy Hour daily 11 a.m. — 7 p.m.
Monday - Piano Bar night
Tuesday - Songwriter’s Night (free food)
Wednesday - Musician’s Night (free food)
Thursday - rotates between zydeco, Kip Sonnier and others
Friday - Lady Songwriters of Louisiana first of every month; traveling bands, DJ Judd Kennedy
Saturday - live music
Never a cover except for rare holidays