Every August, highways across America roar with the revving of motorcycle engines heading west for Sturgis, S.D. Sturgis hosts one of the world’s largest, most infamous bike rallies. In addition to some incredible riding – think mesa-spattered desert highways snaking through antelope-grazing flatlands and rolling hillsides – Sturgis also offers a spectacular nightlife, whether you’re interested in sipping moonshine and getting tattooed, ordering shots from a bikini’d bartender, people-watching downtown, or kicking up your feet at one of dozens of concert venues with world-class lineups.
A quick ride from the buzzing chaos of downtown Sturgis, just past the monumental Bear Butte, sits a rally-week motorcyclist’s oasis: the Broken Spoke Saloon and Campground. In its 25th year, the Broken Spoke boasts a camp site, a general store, a legendary warehouse-sized saloon, and three stages – poolside, saloon, and main stage – for their long list of entertainment which, among DJs and a sideshow, included a roster of bands with headliners like Queens of the Stone Age, Korn, and the Black Crowes, who played the Spoke on Sunday, Aug. 4, just before their appearance at the Peach Music Festival in Scranton last weekend.
Knoxville, Tenn., sextet the Dirty Guv’nahs served up smooth, playful Americana that warmed the crowd like a glass of good sipping whiskey. Stagehands lit incense and left it at the foot of the mic which, along with the backdrop of the Black Hills, set the tone for Sunday’s sensational show. The Black Crowes have been playing for decades, which is apparent in their symbiotic performance. The six-piece, multi-platinum alt-country rockers broke a two-year hiatus for their “Lay Down with Number 13” tour, which is currently traveling the states.
The Crowes – frontman Chris Robinson, guitarist Rich Robinson, drummer Steve Gorman, bassist Sven Pipien, and hat-enthusiast/guitarist Jackie Green – captivated the crowd with their spot-on timing and stage presence, rolling through harmonica-laced hits and jammed-out ballads, including a 10-minute “Wiser Time,” wrapping up with the soulful “Movin’ on Down the Line” and chart-toppers like “She Talks to Angels.” Though the band went without onstage banter, singer Robinson’s ecstatic dance moves spoke with the constant fluid energy of the performance, whether he swayed open-armed, clapped daintily, or tossed an invisible melody picked up by the guitars and keys.
Within the first few songs, the standing-room-only stagefront was crowded with bikers and campers grooving along. The saloon’s decks also filled up quickly with their cozy seating and impeccable sound just a few steps away from the bars. While I caught a ride from Wyoming, plenty of campers rode from as far as the East Coast – and further.
“It’s always been a dream to come to Sturgis,” exclaimed Carla Ruscoe, who flew to the States with friends. “We actually rode up from Vegas on bikes,” said the Aussie, who will roadtrip around the U.S. for about a month after the rally.
Like many Sturgis venues, the Spoke is very veteran-friendly and offers deals on food and drink vouchers. The Broken Spoke is currently running an Early Bird Special for campers who are ready to book a reservation, starting at $99/person, which includes access to all campground amenities – including next year’s shows!