The Wakehouse Woodfire Grill and Barrel isn’t an obvious music venue. The single-room restaurant/bar is small and the outdoor patio where bands play is mostly hidden from the road. You might miss it, in fact, cruising down Manning Avenue on the way into Reedley.
Bullfrog’s Bar and Grill is slightly more visible. Just off the 99 in Kingsburg, the midcentury modern building has a large footprint with close to 10,000 square feet and a patio that sits directly on the river. You can see it from the highway.
The venues have similar stories. Both were once well-known hangouts, are both are now being rebuilt and branded as music spots by Valley natives who returned to the area after spending time in Southern California. Here’s a quick breakdown of each.
The Wakehouse (850 N. Kings River Road, Reedley)
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Used to be: Kelly’s Beach, which according to a story in The Bee, was “a venerable institution of recreation and libation along the Kings River.” It had been in operation for more than 42 years. Preston Baker and business partner Mike Peach bought the riverfront restaurant/bar in December and rebuilt the outdoor patio and lawn area to better accommodate large-scale productions.
What we’ve seen: Ohio emo band Hawthorne Heights played the venue’s first show in July, drawing a crowd of more than 1,000. Since then, The Wakehouse has hosted the third installment of the Summer Sweat block party and Alien Ant Farm’s Make America Rock Again tour.
What to expect: More of these big-scale, multiple-act productions.
“We going to choreograph our concerts into a festival setting,” Baker says.
The dream would be to establish a three-day Valley-theme music festival on the grounds. They are also working to expand the restaurant to include an on-site craft brewery, Baker says.
Why it works: The Wakehouse bills itself as a campfire music venue. Aside from having the Kings River as its backdrop, The Wakehouse has an adjacent campground with more than 100 spots. In theory, fans could see a concert, then camp out for the night. Historically, the spot was kept in business by out-of-towners in for weekend floats down the river, says Baker, who is originally from Kingsburg and, as an interesting side note, spent his 21st birthday at the spot back when it was Kelly’s Beach.
“It’s a culture we all grew up with,” he says, adding that it’s also drastically underused by locals.
The Wakehouse is looking to change that.
It’s a nice way to feature the river.
Preston Baker, co-owner at The Wakehouse in Reedley
Bullfrog’s (38743 Highway 99, Kingsburg)
Used to be: The Riverland Restaurant, a popular nightspot that was part of the Riverland Resort. It was reopened as the restaurant and venue Bullfrog’s in 2011. Clovis native Linsey Ruland came on as a partial owner and general manager in July.
What we’ve seen: Prior to Ruland coming on board, Bullfrog’s worked with outside promoters to bring in several national regional touring acts, like country singers Dustin Lynch and Kip Moore, the rapper Afroman and metal band Puddle of Mudd. Just last month it hosted the metal band Otep, which drew more than 500 fans on a Sunday night, Ruland says.
What to expect: Weekend concerts that focus on local artists (Russian Money plays there Saturday, Sept. 17), with larger touring bands stopping in at least once a month.
Why it works: Bullfrog’s has space and plenty of it. The main room has a full stage and production area with space for 800 people. There’s a secondary banquet room with a mobile stage that can accommodate another 150 people or more. That’s not counting the patio bar.
Ruland cut her teeth promoting shows in Los Angeles. So she is used to slightly smaller venues. It was what initially drew her to the space. Bullfrog’s has flexibility in the kind of shows it offers, she says: “Sometimes we have two bars going, two rooms going.”
In L.A., everything is so compact and tiny.
Linsey Ruland, general manager and co-owner Bullfrog’s in Kingsburg
Upcoming: The Harvest Moon Blues Festival is Saturday, Oct. 1. The show will be headlined by Janiva Magness, who was the the Blues Foundation’s B.B. King Entertainer of the Year in 2009. Also on the bill are TJ and the Suitcase, Square One and The Whatevers. Tickets are $15-$20 and on sale now.
The Wakehouse Woodfire Grill and Barrel
- 850 N Kings River Road, Reedley
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., daily
- 559-637-9000, www.thewakehousekingsriver.com
Bullfrog’s Bar and Grill
- 38743 Highway 99, Kingsburg
- Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday-Friday, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
- 559-897-5100, www.bullfrogsusa.com