Last call for Bruce ‘The Piano Man’ Barker at the Cactus
A Purdue club icon for 28 years, Bruce Barker has been hosting a rolling Homecoming this semester in a countdown leading to one final gig tonight at the Neon Cactus.
Thanks today for support from the Lafayette Chamber Singers, celebrating the organization’s 50th and final season in 2023-24. Join the Chamber Singers for Pastyme with Good Companye, a free concert of Renaissance chorale music at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at Unitarian Universalist Church, 333 Meridian St., West Lafayette.
LAST CALL FOR BRUCE ‘THE PIANO MAN’ BARKER AT THE CACTUS
It comes down to tonight at the Neon Cactus, this final Thursday of 28 years of Thursdays – give or take during the pandemic years – for Bruce Barker.
Barker, who has held court in packed rooms as The Piano Man at West Lafayette’s Cactus for what amounts to generations of Purdue students, has been counting down the weeks since announcing in August that he was retiring from his weekly slot that has been his own since 1995.
Leading up to tonight’s final show, the 18-week countdown has been a last call for Boilermaker alums to lift one more “social” round and to tie tips to selections from Barker’s 500-song playlist. It’s been a bit of a rolling, sing-along Homecoming every Thursday night in Levee Plaza.
“Used to be, when I didn’t have my best voice, that I didn’t mind coasting a little bit,” Barker said. “Not ever on autopilot and never, ever mailing in a show, but just backing off a bit and leading the party. But that knowing that these people, this whole entire semester, spent really hard-earned money and traveled incredible distance just to say hi, one last time, I have really let it out, where you're blowing out your vocal cords. So, I am absolutely limping across the finish line.”
But it’s all been worth it, this farewell residency, he said. It’s a gig that has become part of the Purdue experience and one that Barker estimates played in front of nearly 1.5 million people on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Barker will continue to play, with shows booked well into 2024. But no more at the Neon Cactus after tonight’s show.
Question: This farewell tour has been a scene. What kind of tips and tributes have there been on this farewell run, other than cash on the piano?