Former touring musician now bartending at Kirby’s


Easton Thompson

Brandon Pittman and Ryan Bell move a cabinet on Sept. 19 at Kirby’s Beer Store. Kirby’s has been around since 1972 and hosts music and other talent throughout each month.

Brandon Pittman is not a Wichita native, but he’s glad he’s here now.

Pittman, originally from Atlanta, Georgia, has worked as a bartender for several years now, but it wasn’t until he started working at Kirby’s Beer Store that he says he found a home.

“It’s like a little family here, and it’s very welcoming as well,” Pittman said. “We like seeing new faces.”

Kirby’s started serving drinks and hosting bands in 1972. Since then, it’s become a local hub for artists from all over the country to perform shows. The bar hosts live shows almost every night.

“We have everything here,” Pittman said. “You have experimental noise acts, jazz, hip-hop, rock, even some honky-tonk and bluegrass.”

Located near 17th and Hillside next to the laundromat, people might not expect much from a small dive bar tucked away in an equally small strip mall across from campus.

But for some traveling artists, Kirby’s is considered a local legend. Since about the 90s, the venue has hosted a number of artists and groups touring across the country.

“You can really tell who enjoys coming here, because we get a lot of bands that are on the road,” Pittman said. “They may have never been to Wichita in their lives.”

Pittman himself is no stranger to the touring lifestyle. As a musician on the side, he has toured the United States and even some countries in Europe.

“I did the college rock circuit for a while,” Pittman said. “Their scene is pretty much like anyone else in America. A lot of underground shows, a lot of DIY ethic.”

During his touring days, Kirby’s was the first venue Pittman played in Wichita. Years later, he moved to Wichita to marry his long-distance girlfriend.

Pittman has been working at Kirby’s for about eight months now, and said he’s thoroughly enjoying it.

“The first time I ever came to Wichita was playing this bar, so it’s this weird, circle-of-life thing that I would be working here now,” he said.

New patrons might be slightly taken aback by Kirby’s aesthetics. The bar is dimly lit, posters and stickers cover just about every square inch of the walls, and the inside of the bar itself is deceptively small, filling up quickly during shows.

In short, it’s a dive bar through and through.

“They don’t tear down posters here — they just put posters over the posters,” Pittman said. “We let the building look lawless, but we’re very responsible here.”

While Kirby’s has been a Wichita staple for many years, the bar plans on serving up more than just beer and musical acts in the future. They’ve hosted a variety of small yet successful festivals in the past, including Meat Fest and Vegan Fest.

Kirby’s now serves kombucha, and is planning on hosting video game tournaments in the future. Right after Pittman’s interview with The Sunflower ended, a truck showed up hauling the bar’s new pinball machine.

“We’re trying to really capitalize on that hangout vibe,” Pittman said. “We’re also trying to do some other random stuff so people don’t feel like they have to come here for the live music. I wouldn’t want too much to change with Kirby’s.”

It was the original vibe of the bar that drew Pittman and many others to Kirby’s in the first place. Regardless of what comes next for the bar, the posters will continue to stack on top of eachother, proudly reflecting the ongoing history of the bar.

“I like the eclecticness. It brings the left-field crowd,” Pittman said. “We kind of pride ourselves on being kind of like a fringe bar where all the freaks and geeks hang out. That’s one of the reasons I love working here.”