Bronson Rock is amping up the rock in Keller

Autograph, best-known for its 1985 hit “Turn Up the Radio,” plays Friday night (June 30) at Bronson Rock in Keller. The restaurant/bar, which reopened in March, is bringing in more national acts from the late ’80s, ’90s and “aughts.”
Autograph, best-known for its 1985 hit “Turn Up the Radio,” plays Friday night (June 30) at Bronson Rock in Keller. The restaurant/bar, which reopened in March, is bringing in more national acts from the late ’80s, ’90s and “aughts.”

KELLER — “Turn Up the Radio,” the 1985 rock hit by pop-metal band Autograph, happened to be playing as I walked into Bronson Rock Burgers & Beer early Friday afternoon.

It was a coincidence, but Autograph happens to be playing a live set there on Friday night, as in June 30, as in tonight as I write this. Doors open at 8; show is from 9:30 to 11 p.m.; tickets are $10; 21 and over only.

It’s part of the next step for the Keller burger joint/bar, which reopened in March after having closed in October. Richard McConathy, the Dallas attorney who co-owns Bronson Rock and was behind its revival, wants it to become the music destination not just for Keller but for Northeast Tarrant County.

“It’s part of our new vision of bringing the real sound of the real artists to Keller, Texas,” McConathy said Friday.

Bronson Rock has been known for cover bands and tribute acts, but McConathy has already been fulfilling that new vision: On June 24, Winger, another pop-metal act that had three Top 40 hits (“Seventeen,” “Headed for a Heartbreak” and “Miles Away”) in the late ’80s/early ’90s, played to a packed house at Bronson Rock, which has a large patio with an outdoor stage as well as the “Black Hole Theater,’ a more club-like area with an indoor stage.

Other bands acts coming include FireHouse, known for the power ballads “When I Look Into Your Eyes” and “Love of a Lifetime,” playing July 7; early “aughts” rap-metal band Saliva, July 14; and another early 21st-century band, Saving Abel, July 22.

August brings what might be the biggest name: Lita Ford, who had a big 1988 hit with “Kiss Me Deadly” but may be best-known for “Close My Eyes Forever,” a duet with Ozzy Osbourne that made the Billboard Top 10 in June 1989. Ford plays Aug. 12; pop-metal band Slaughter, Aug 18; and ’90s alt-metal group Puddle of Mudd (known for such happy songs as “She Hates Me” and “Blurry”), Sept. 9.

Music and pop-culture references abound at Bronson Rock, from the photos of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson (of course, even though he’s not the restaurant’s namesake) and others throughout the complex to the rock-band flags suspended from the ceiling to an actual “Bronson rock” (see below) above one of the bars. Menus are now circular — and envelop old vinyl records, with the labels still showing.

A memorable photo of Johnny Cash flipping off the camera has been relocated from the main dining room to another one of the bars, where it’s less likely to be seen by families bringing in their children.

Although its name comes from biker slang (again, see below) and it definitely attracts a biker faction, Bronson Rock attracts an eclectic crowd with its burger-centric menu (although there are other options besides burgers).

“You’ll see bikers over at one table and a family with kids at another table,” McConathy says, “and then you’ll look over there and see construction workers at one table and guys who look like they just came in from the golf course at another.

McConathy says that he would like to eventually have some current national acts play Bronson Rock, the relatively small size of the venue would limit it to up-and-coming bands, although he has had discussions with Fort Worth’s Toadies — and he says Aersomith’s Steven Tyler even talked with Bronson Rock about brining his country act there.

Bronson Rock is more than 15 miles from downtown Fort Worth and about 35 miles from downtown Dallas; McConathy says his goal is to have an entertainment venue that allows residents of Northeast Tarrant to avoid making the commutes to the bigger cities to see national acts.

There are also plans for expansion of Bronson Rock — which has already expanded significantly since it opened in 2011 — that will allow for bigger concert crowds. And the restaurant, which is at the south end of downtown Keller, is already working on developing a large parking lot further to the south.

Bronson Rock’s live-music push (and don’t worry, there will still be plenty of locally based artists, including tribute artists and cover bands) comes around the same time of the announcement of Station Patio Icehouse, which will be just a couple of blocks away in Old Town Keller with plans for an 1,800-square-foot patio with two stages, one for quieter acoustic shows and one for bigger shows with amplifiers. Keller Tavern, also in Old Town, also has a patio with live music.

But McConathy says he welcomes the competition — especially since Bronson Rock will have more parking.

As we’ve noted before, Bronson Rock got its name from biker slang for any unconventional tool used to fix a motorcycle — a reference to a scene in the 1969-’70 TV series “Then Came Bronson” in which the lead character repairs his bike with a rock. Michael Parks, who played Jim Bronson, a disillusioned reporter who hits the road, died May 9, and there is a possibility that Bronson Rock will have a tribute to him.

It already does, actually: Parks sang the show’s theme song, “Long Lonesome Highway,” and recorded a few albums — including 1970’s “Long Lonesome Highway,” which is now encased above the jukebox at Bronson Rock, holding a place of honor near one of the bars.

Bronson Rock is at 250 S Main St. (U.S. 377 in Keller); http://bronsonrocktx.com; updates at @bronsonrocktx on Facebook.