By Jenna Lazenby
March has arrived and with it comes the beginning of spring, days filled with more sunlight, and lots of green beads and beer. Now in its 28th year, Roanoke has a long-standing tradition of celebrating the Irish and the Irish-at-heart with its St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Shamrock Festival. Many of Roanoke’s downtown restaurants and bars have joined the party, offering a full slate of Irish-themed food and drink and plenty of live music.
Martin’s Downtown has become a staple in these festivities with its annual St. Patrick’s Day Block Party. This year’s event kicks off at 12:00 with music by Roanoke jam band Groova Scape on the outdoor stage, followed by 11 other bands alternating between the indoor and outdoor stages. The lineup includes 2016 FloydFest On the Rise runner-up, Urban Soil, out of Raleigh, North Carolina, along with a number of other noteworthy Roanoke bands.
When it comes to Martin’s Downtown owner, Jason Martin, has spent the past decade building a business and a brand around three key ingredients: good food, cold drinks, and strong live music acts without a hefty price tag. He holds strong to the belief that consistency is key, and that ultimately it’s about building a brand and cultivating the right vibe.
“This year’s St. Pat’s Block Party should be the best one yet,” Martin said. “The event has grown so much over the last five years and we’re in a good place with it and know what works. We’ll have a large tent set up in the street which will act as our covered bar area. There will be Irish food coming from the Martin’s Food Trailer and plenty of green beer and other libations available.”
The Martin’s Block Parties bring in big crowds of young people hungry for live music. Something Jason says Roanoke could use more of. Unfortunately, Virginia ABC laws only allow four of those block parties a year, or you’d see a lot more of them. That would ultimately be a good thing as Roanoke works to build a musical buzz that draws in more acts.
“Music has always been a passion of mine, inspired by my own experiences seeing live shows,” Jason shared. “I’m not a musician myself, but I’m a lover of music. Ultimately I lose money on most of my shows, but I love it. Plus, it’s a great vehicle for selling more beers.”
Martin’s, a family business, offers live music entertainment five nights a week, Tuesday – Saturday and has held somewhere close to 3,300 live shows. To help bring in some of the more high-profile bands to the area, Jason also scopes out what’s being routed. If bands are passing through the area on their way to play a show in DC, Atlanta or Charlotte, he will see if he can book them as they pass through on a weekday night.
When asked what the future holds for Martin’s, Jason quickly answered that he hoped for a lot more of the same. “We want to hone our craft. We want to continue to book top-notch entertainment, and keep it affordable for Roanoke to see. I just want to keep getting better and I want more people to come out and enjoy it.”
St Patrick’s Day Block Party
Saturday, March 11
|C2 & Brothers Reed||4pm-530pm|
|Lazy Man Dub Band||6pm-730pm|
|Morgan Wade Band||730pm-830pm|