At first glance, the stylish barn at the R3 Ranch in Buffalo looks like the sort of place that might house classic cars inside.
First glances, however, can be quite deceiving. Vehicles are not what the fancy barn with its three large garage doors are hiding at all.
Instead, there’s a blow-out sound system boasting 25,000 watts of power that can really crank up the jam.
It’s become the place to be Friday and Saturday nights for those who know about it, with a one-of-a-kind karaoke setup that might seem more at home powering a stadium heavy metal concert than a rural barn music revival.
This stage was built by a retired sound engineer for the music industry named James J. Clare III.
“I’ve got a 60-foot wall that opens up,” Clare said. “And music pours outside with an outside PA. And there’s 14 professional PA speakers and then the stage has its own amplifier system up there with stage monitors and 16 microphones.”
Every Friday and Saturday night, Clare throws the garage doors open for ya’ll come karaoke nights on his property, which is about 100 yards from Lake De Smet.
Friday is kids night, Saturday is for adults, and the amps are cranked up to 11 year-round.
“It’s been catching on,” Clare told Cowboy State Daily. “On a Friday night for the kids, there’s probably around 30. Adult nights, I get between 30 to 50 on a good night.”
Clare offers free food — hotdogs on Friday and pasta on Saturdays. Donations are accepted from those who want to help keep those garage doors open.
This Wasn’t The Plan
Karaoke nights weren’t something Clare was really planning when he moved to Wyoming, but the subconscious has a way of working out the larger picture when we allow it.
One of the first things Clare did after he bought his Wyoming ranch was to choose a telling name. He calls it the Rock and Roll Ranch, he told Cowboy State Daily, and his soundstage is named R3 Soundstage.
“When I moved here from California, I didn’t bring much furniture,” he said. “But I did bring my sound equipment.”
At first, the equipment he’d gathered over the years just sat around in the barn collecting dust, unused and often in the way. Every time Clare wanted to do a little woodworking project, whether it was fixing up the barn or the house or something else, he inevitably had to move something out of the way.
Nothing was where it belonged.
One day, Clare got tired of that. So, without a second thought, he built a 420-square-foot soundstage in the 3,000-square-foot barn.
Now he could put everything where it belonged. No more moving stuff around.
Move Over Juke Box Hero
Finishing the soundstage felt pretty good, but then Clare had this completely empty soundstage not getting used.
A soundstage is a space with appropriately placed speakers and microphones, a place where sound not only lives, but is caught and projected out into space. There’s a definite science to setting up a real soundstage, and it’s not something just anyone can do.
Once Clare had finished the soundstage in his barn, he couldn’t resist taking it for a spin.
“You’re in a big building in the middle of nowhere on a 50-acre farm,” Clare said. “So, you could bang those drums real loud!”
And that’s exactly what Clare did.
It felt good. It felt right. But what would feel even better would be some music to go with the drums, he realized. So, Clare connected a karaoke app to the system, which provided music with no singing.
“And then I said, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool,’” he said, adding that after awhile, playing drums as loud as he wanted and singing all by himself was, well, boring.
“It’s just no fun doing music alone,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Clare remembered all the summer festivals of his youth and a vibrant underground music scene where he grew up in New York.
“There were a lot of clubs like this in New York,” Clare said. “They had the Bottom Line in New York in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. That was a small venue with maybe 100, 200 people. Bob Dylan played there, The Dead played there — all the big bands played there in that small venue. It was like tiny, hidden, but that’s where this music took place.”
That inspired Clare to start dreaming a little bigger with his soundstage than just a place where things belonged. That’s how Karaoke Fridays and Saturdays came about.
Clare is still dreaming big with his soundstage at the Rock and Roll Ranch in the middle of nowhere by Lake De Smet.
“I’ve always thrown parties and shows,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Not as a trade necessarily, but it’s something I just enjoy doing.”
When he looks out over the lake during the summer, he doesn’t see any reason why summer tourists wouldn’t want to come over and hear a little music, if he could just get some bands to come out and play for them.
So, he’s applied for a liquor license so he can sell beer and wine, hoping that he could make enough to pay for some bands to come out, in addition to having the karaoke nights that helped start it all.
He’s also been thinking about hosting a summer rock and roll camp on the R3 stage, where students could test their talents on a real soundstage.
“I love getting the kids here,” Clare said. “And I’ve seen what it does for the children. It’s amazing. Even after a few attempts, a few days of coming here, they gain so much confidence in their abilities. They find out if they have talent, and a lot of them do — unknown to anyone — but they do, so that is a pretty good thing.”
He also has a friend who has a podcast channel with a quarter million viewers who might be interested in broadcasting music from Wyoming for a program.
“I have a young man that has great ideas on putting a station together,” he added. “But I needed to get video cameras first, so now I’m set up for five cameras.”
Where all that might lead, Clare isn’t certain. It’s just another step in a journey that started when he moved to Wyoming with sound equipment and no furniture.
Whatever he does, though, he hopes it just enhances the state he’s come to call home.
“I’ve seen a lot of good things in Wyoming,” Clare said. “And I’m not looking to change that. I’m looking to enhance it and give people more stuff to do.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.