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Dude, Where's My Bar?

Favorite music club not where you left it? We’re here to help.

By Mike Breen · February 29th, 2012 · Swizzle
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It seems like in the past, Cincinnati had a reputation for being the kind of place you could move away from for a decade knowing that when you returned, the gas station, grocery store and drinking establishments would be there waiting for you, exactly as you left them. 

But the Greater Cincinnati area has been in flux over the past several years and the window of time you could move away and come back without anything changing has gradually shrunk. In 2007, for example, let’s say you were abducted by aliens who took you off for probing and experiments. They would only have to return you by 2010 if you wanted to come back to your old Queen City gal as you remembered and not walk into your favorite bar only to discover it’s a Little Ceasars now. 

But if today was the day you were returned to Earth and you are excitedly rushing to get out for some live music and beers after being gone a whole year? The past year has seen so many shake-ups in a short period of time for clubs that showcase live music, there’s a decent chance that the place you go to drink and listen to music has been through some kind of change. 

To save you some embarrassment and provide a refresher for those having trouble keeping score, here is a to-the-point cheat sheet for navigating the Cincy/Northern Kentucky live music club shuffle. (Don’t worry; everything’s looking much better now.)

If you used to frequent:

The Mad Hatter (or connected, sister club Radiodown) in Covington and watch 15 Metal, Hip Hop, Indie and/or Punk bands play per night.

It’s Now:

Bangarang’s of Covington, and that’s good news for you if you went to The Mad Hatter for the music, not the alcohol. The new owners book the club in a similar vein, presenting lots of Hardcore, Metal and Punk at the moment, but Hip Hop/Rock/Jazz group Eclipse and Reggae band The Pinstripes played recently and Indie Rock band Cursive is coming up. But the club ran into trouble with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control early on and has yet to acquire its liquor license. Bangarang’s continues to be one of the few outlets for underage fans to see and hear live music, especially in a “bar setting.” But for now, if you need a beer with your live bands, you’re just going to have to wait until the show’s over.

Options:

While Bangarang’s works out its problems, the former Mad Hatter booking/management crew is getting set to run a new club, a smaller venue around the corner from Bangarang’s that The Enquirer reported would be called Madison Live and be a little-sister venue to Madison Theater, located right next door and owned by the Theater’s operators.

It will reportedly be local-music-focused and will definitely serve booze.

Outlook:

If you must drink, just hope Bangarang’s is able to serve again soon. Otherwise, it’s a tough road ahead because alcohol’s where all the money is made (pizza and fountain pops don’t pay the bills). 

(Bangarang’s of Covington, 620 Scott Blvd., Covington. 859-360-2790.)

If you used to frequent:

Play By Play Café in Silverton to groove to some tunage by the best of Cincinnati’s fertile and wildly eclectic improv/Jam band scene and beyond. 

It’s Now:

MVP Sports Bar and Grille. As you might have gathered from the name, it has a food focus (pub grub and Greek) and there are big TVs to watch sports. But this is hallowed ground for Silverton’s music scene — before Play By Play, it was the wildly popular Metal/Hard Rock bar, Never on Sunday. 

Options:

MVP’s new owners have renovated the space, making it look more contemporary with a sleek bar and swankier décor. And they understand their live music responsibility, having run Never On’s in its heyday. So far MVP has presented an interesting mix of live music on the weekends, touching on the location’s roots (Hair Metal, Jamgrass, Reggae) and well beyond (cover bands, Latin nights).

Outlook:

It’s very nice, but not exactly like you remember. But why can’t a metalhead go salsa dancing? 

(MVP Sports Bar and Grille, 6923 Plainfield Road, Silverton. 513-794-1400; www.mymvpsportsbarandgrille.com.)

If you used to frequent:

The Southgate House, the Newport mansion on the hill with a thrillingly eclectic musical lineup that has included some of the biggest names in Rock, Folk, Blues, Country, Rockabilly, Punk and almost any other style but always supported the littlest names coming up, as well. We music lovers would die without this proverbial crown jewel. 

It’s Now:

Time to pull up a chair and talk. Nutshell: A family dispute led the courts to give the property to the sister of the longtime owner; she was reportedly set to sell or lease “Thompson House,” as it’s now officially called, but also talked of keeping it a music club.

Options:

You’ll have to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. The Southgate House family is expected to announce a new location in Newport soon, a positive sign. Losing the Southgate was really losing three bars (and three performance stages), but a lot of the clubs around the area have picked up the slack. It will interesting to see what happens to the historic building.

Outlook:

Hazy, try again later. 

If you used to frequent:

Your favorite place to kick back, have a cocktail and listen to some Jazz, the off-the-busy-path Blue Wisp Jazz Club on Eighth Street.

It’s Now:

Empty. But don’t despair …

Options:

The Blue Wisp Jazz Club is back! The storied Jazz bar’s quick relocation to Race and Seventh streets (once Redfish) is a definite trade-up. A bigger, nicer space with a large kitchen and full menu, plus consistently high-quality Jazz musicians, both legends and newbies from the local scene and tour circuit — it’s what you loved but better. 

Outlook:

Everything’s cool, cat. 

(Blue Wisp Jazz Club, 700 Race St., Downtown. 513-241-9477; thebluewisp.com.)

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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