Lance Wagner earned an aeronautical engineering degree at San Jose State University, but like a lot of college graduates, he ended up in a different career from his major. Before moving to Florida to continue with his flight school, an opportunity arose to purchase a restaurant called Lou’s.

After Lou’s went through several changes in their offerings and location over the years, Wagner decided to make Lou’s a BBQ restaurant in Campbell, and recently began hosting live music. We talked to him in advance of his big upcoming show by Frank Stallone, often more noted for being Sylvester Stallone’s younger brother than the artist behind 10 albums over 30 years.

What inspired you to open Little Lou’s BBQ?

I was actually going to move to Florida and go back to flight school, but Lou’s Village (as it was called back then), came up for sale and I met the owners with my dad to put in an offer. I had a pretty extensive food background in the past working for some pig-dinner houses and the Palomino in San Francisco. The original plan was to close the restaurant and use the name for a catering service. But the food was good and we decided to bottle and sell our own BBQ sauce.

Tell me about the BBQ sauce.

It’s gluten-free and all-natural. It’s made up in Healdsburg. The sauce originates from the original owners who opened Lou’s, but I created the spicy version about 10 years ago. I also took it one step further and made labels and marketed the sauces.

What’s your favorite item on the menu?

We recently started serving Pho and I love it. It’s my wife’s family recipe. The pork ribs are also really good.

What item on the menu do you get the most praise for?

When I look around during lunch time, it’s an even split between ribs and Pho. We’re looking to expand the menu further with more Asian dishes.

I see a bar over there, what’s to drink?

We have 18 craft beers on tap, and I try to get a lot of beers you can’t find anywhere else. We often host beer nights.

You’re surrounded by BBQ food all the time. Where do you like to go out to eat when you’re not working?

A lot of that is driven by my kids. We go to Sizzler a lot because the kids enjoy the buffet.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with the restaurant?

Definitely keeping up with the times on the food and menus. The live music has been a challenge as well because there’s so many people that want to play. I’m trying to please everyone so I have to make sure bands fit right with the crowd. I have so many musically-inclined customers that have come to expect good music. I try to do the best I can.

Did Little Lou’s always have live music?

We started about 7 or 8 months ago and it’s really taken off. I’ve linked myself up with some really good artists, such as Aki Kumar, a harmonica player that runs our Thursday night blues jam. Things are happening a lot quicker than I thought they would.

What inspired you to have live music?

I love all types of music, and people were asking for it. It’s fun and it’s been good.

How often do you host bands and artists?

We have live music about 4 or 5 days a week, including the blues jam every Thursday. We host everybody from Chris Cain and Daniel Castro to country music bands. We don’t have just one genre of music, we take them all.

Why is it important for Lou’s to have live music?

Because there’s a lot of  good artists in the Bay Area that nobody knows about. This is a way for those artists to express themselves. For a lot of them it’s not about the money, they just want to play.

Silicon Valley has a strong blues and jazz scene. Why do you think musicians gravitate towards the Bay Area?

The vast community of music-lovers and musicians. There’s a thriving need for places to play live music down here because many restaurants in the area no longer host artists.

What has been the most memorable show so far?

Last month we had a NorCal vs. SoCal guitar off with “Kid” Andersen–who just won a BMA–Little Charlie Baty, Kirk Fletcher and Junior Watson. I got  tons of praise for that show.

Why do artists flock to your restaurant?

I’ve been told numerous times that our venue is intimate, sounds really nice, and the food is great.

Where do you spend time when you’re not working?

I spend most of my off-time at home with the kids, but I also enjoy taking them out for fun things like miniature golf and baseball. My kids are at the age where I can have actual conversations with them, and that’s kind of cool.