The room isolated from the front of the restaurant is another world. It’s called the Firkin, and it hosts performers in the night.
In the Tallgrass Taphouse, two dudes sang and strummed guitar to animated guests. In the background, three plasmas TVs played in front of a mini bar. The world’s best beer was constantly being served.
One night, a band called Grateful Dudes performed in the humble space. Dim lights shed on the two while they strummed the night away.
At the Tallgrass Taphouse, the Grateful Dudes invited a guest performer named Steve Hinrichs.
“There’s very few people in their 50s that don’t know Steve,” Tony Ridder, a member of Grateful Dudes, said. “He’s one of the big rockers in town.”
Hinrichs' roots are in Manhattan, and he adds a lot of spirit to the gig.
During a break, each member had a chance to speak.
Ridder got into music at a young age. “My dad bought me a toy guitar,” Ridder said. “I broke it. I told him I wanted a real one.”
After Ridder laughed from the memory, he added, “The only way he’d buy me a real one is if I got serious. Eventually, he bought me one. In eighth grade, I had a band.”
Back in the day, his band was called The Freeloaders.
The other band member, Jeb Bolan, has a similar story. He was into music in high school and choir. However, the two didn’t know each other from high school.
“We met through mutual friends who thought we had a lot in common,” Ridder said. “I was already playing in Manhattan and got introduced to Jeb. We discussed music and had an enormous amount in common.”
When the two met, it was 1988. Their small group was called No Pun Intended.
“We played at anything in Manhattan until 1990,” Ridder said. “I left to pursue what I’d gone to school for.”
It wasn’t until over two decades later that Ridder returned to Manhattan. To his surprise, Bolan had stopped playing during his absence.
“I pushed him to play again,” Ridder said. “I came to his house and we practiced.”
Eventually, the two got brave enough to get back out there. With their renewed bond, they renamed themselves Grateful Dudes.
As for what they hope to achieve, Ridder said, “I’m a story song musician. Stories have to have a meaning and leave something for the listener.”