Before I left, I had a lot of people ask me just what I’d be doing while on tour. The best answer I could give them was, “I don’t know, sell shirts I guess.”
So, in an effort to give you a better picture of what a day in the life of Valley of the Sun’s illustrious merch guy/tour bitch, I give you a minute-by-minute breakdown of what will most likely be our busiest day on the tour. What transpires is a day with two shows and 10 combined hours on the road and yes, it’s as tiring as it sounds.
6:30 a.m.: Wake up before dawn in Frankfurt and get ready for a five hour drive to Munich. Take a shower in a hotel shower that has no door or curtain while using a shower head has no holder on the wall. Listen to Black Dahlia Murder to wake up.
7:30 a.m.: Make a to-go sandwich at the hotel’s breakfast bar.
7:35 a.m.: Help navigate the van out of a hotel parking garage that it shouldn’t have logically fit in.
7:47 a.m.: Begin a five-hour drive to Munich. Naps are taken by most. Breaking the speed limit is performed by others. Who knew a van could go triple digits?
8:50 a.m.: Pit stop number one: water, coffee and baked good acquired. Knifes and soccer hooligans are ogled.
10:43 a.m.: Pit stop number two: water and coffee are released, drivers are switched.
12:00 p.m.: Arrive at venue, take tour of stage and see backstage area. Find WiFi password and begin to use and abuse venue’s internet connection.
12:45 p.m.: Dig merch out of van for festival’s merchandise display. Freak out when an entire box of shirts cannot be found.
12:47 p.m.: Rejoice when the box of shirts are unearthed.
1:20 p.m.: Begin gear load in.
1:30 p.m.: Realize you’ve learned more gear terminology on this tour than in a decade of attending concerts and hanging out with bands.
1:40 p.m.: Rip an expensive tour banner.
1:52 p.m.: Sit around and surf through Facebook and Instagram while band sound checks.
2:45 p.m.: Check to see if ears are bleeding from sound check volume.
3:00 p.m.: Walk around the venue and people-watch to waste time before show starts.
3:25 p.m.: Set up Nick’s Go Pro cameras around the venue to capture the forthcoming insanity.
3:30 p.m.: Showtime. Festival attendees begin to filter into Valley’s show (Valley is the first band of the day).
4:00 p.m.: A circle pit breaks out for the first time in the band’s history. Horns are thrown liberally.
4:10 p.m.: Remember why Valley of the Sun is my favorite Cincinnati band.
4:15 p.m.: Raid the catering table for a sandwich, pretzel, banana and water. Plan to eat pretzel on the road as a snack.
4:30 p.m.: Settle merch sales with organizers, collect money, pile up CDs, LPs and shirts to load into the van.
4:35 p.m.: Eat pretzel before ever reaching the van.
4:40 p.m.: Call dibs on a festival attendee.
4:50 p.m.: Wait for Ryan to settle up event pay with festival organizers.
5:00 p.m.: On the road again for another five-hour ride to Seigen.
5:05 p.m.: Begin typing hourly breakdown in van to save some time on off day tomorrow and to give my phone a chance to regain some charge.
5:50 p.m.: Pit stop one. Beer from festival is released.
8:25 p.m.: Pit stop two. Water is released and drivers are switched.
10:30 p.m.: Arrive at second venue where bands have already started playing.
10:37 p.m.: Order a pizza at stand outside of venue while we wait for support bands to finish.
11:15 p.m.: Continue eating; this time it is chicken curry in the band apartment.
11:30 p.m.: Final support act has finished. Start mad dash to load gear in from the van to the venue.
11:40 p.m.: Set up last minute merch area in a now desolate bar.
11:43 p.m.: Wait for the band to take the stage.
11:55 p.m.: Sell first bits of merch to those still at the venue. Try to explain that pins are one Euro a piece, not one Euro per handful.
12:30 a.m.: Show starts.
12:50 a.m.: Play Tetris while band is performing and, therefore, no one is looking at merch.
12:55 a.m.: Earn new high score in Tetris.
1:10 a.m.: Band finishes after three encores. A fourth is requested but the band has literally no other songs left to play.
1:15 a.m.: Sell 132 Euro worth of merch in 10 minutes.
1:45 a.m.: Pack up merch once sales dry up.
1:55 a.m.: Pack up van and grab overnight bags.
2:20 a.m.: Prepare for bed after a 20-hour day.
2:25 a.m.: Sleep for 10 hours straight.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned about touring it’s that it’s defined by tons of dead time, punctuated by moments of massive amounts of activity. “Hurry up and wait” is the perfect way to describe it. We rush in the morning to squeeze everyone’s morning routine into a short period of time. Then we spend hours in the van to reach a venue, only to rush to get the van unloaded, merch set out and sound check completed, along with other pre-show rituals. Then we wait for the show to start, followed by the post-show rush to sell merch, load up the van and get to our lodging for the night.
It makes for long days and long nights, with little to no rest. It’s tiring, hectic and stressful and I’m having the time of my life. I could really use an actual shower though, that’s for sure.
Between Wu-Tang Clan reunion shows and the seminal Hip Hop group’s forthcoming new album, two Wu members/affiliates have hit the road to headline the World Wide Rollers Tour, presented by The Smokers Club, a group of weed/Hip Hop aficionados that have booked five national tours and launched a clothing line and record label (smoking products will reportedly soon be added to the Club’s inventory). Joining the dynamic duo of Method Man and Redman on the tour are B-Real, frontman for cannabis-in-Hip Hop pioneers Cypress Hill, and up-and-coming MCs Mick Jenkins and Berner.
The tour DJ is Cincinnati’s own DJ Clockwork, who’s now going by the name Clockworkdj. Clockwork, DJ for rapper Mac Miller and regular on MTV’s Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family reality show, recently released the solo single, “Clocktwerk,” on which he’s shows off his rhyming skills. Click here for more info on Clockworkdj.
• Madison Theater is Metal central tonight as several genre heavyweights pull into the Covington venue for a 6 p.m., all-ages concert. Tickets are $25.
The show features Unearth, Darkest Hour, Carnifex, I the Breather, Origin, Black Crown Initiate, Requiem and Laid Bare.
Boston’s Metalcore heroes Unearth are gearing up for the Oct. 28 release of their latest album, Watchers of Rule. Here’s the new album track “The Swarm”:
And here’s Carnifex’s video for “Die Without Hope,” the title track off of the Californian Deathcore band’s most recent album.
Remember in my first blog when I said I was worried that I had over packed?
Guess what? I over packed.
I’ve been on tour for a week now and these are a few things I’ve learned so far, in no particular order. Hopefully they help you the next time a Rock band drags you across Europe. Or on your next trip to Disneyland.
Two of the leading lights from Nashville’s exploding underground Rock scene, JEFF the Brotherhood and Diarrhea Planet, perform tonight at Northside Tavern. Admission is $10 and the show starts at 9 p.m. Locals Gazer and See You in the Funnies open.
JEFF the Brotherhood recently released a covers EP, Dig the Classics, on Warner Brothers Records. Brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall picked six of their favorite tunes to record for the EP: Pixies’ “Gouge Away”; The Wipers’ “Mystery”; My Bloody Valentine’s “Come in Alone”; Colleen Green’s “Cujo”; Teenage Fanclub’s “Mad Dog 20/20”; and Beck’s “Totally Confused.” A new original full-length, the followup to the duo’s fantastic Hypnotic Nights LP, is currently being completed and is slated for release early next year.
• Austin, Texas, Indie Pop trio The Please Please Me returns to town tonight, this time for a free show at Over-the-Rhine’s MOTR Pub. With a mix of cello, guitar and some spectacular melodies and harmonies, The Please Please Me has been working on its first full-length release, the followup to last year’s debut EP, Shake a Little Harder.
Know of other good live music options for tonight in Greater Cincinnati? Share details in the comments.
Cincinnati greats Wussy continue to surge into the national spotlight, playing sold-out shows across the country and continuing to garner glowing press for their spectacular Attica! album. The band also recently posted several photos of the members filming something for CBS in New York City recently (more info TBA), which should escalate its status even more (a film crew was on hand she the band played the MidPoint Music Festival recently, as well). Can’t think of a more deserved local band.
This evening you can catch the band live FOR FREE on Fountain Square as Wussy headlines this week’s happy-hour “Rocktober on the Square” series. Music starts at 5 p.m. with the fantastic Roots Rock ensemble Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound.
Here’s Wussy’s full appearance on KEXP recorded earlier this year.
• Nashville rockers Those Darlins are also a band on the rise and their fan base in Cincinnati continues to grow thanks to their repeated visits to the Queen City (and their great sound and live show). The group plays a free show at Northside Tavern tonight with guests Jeremy Pinnell and the 55’s and Even Tiles. Doors open at 8 p.m.
• The two-night, “whole house” showcase at the Southgate House Revival in Newport celebrating local indie label Phratry Records kicks off tonight. Showtime is 8 p.m. and admission is $5 each night. Click here and here for details. A documentary film about Phratry is currently in the works. Here’s the trailer:
• London Pop band Bastille was supposed to play at Covington’s Madison Theater back in May but cancelled and then got HUGE (or HUGER — its music had already been selling big and the band appeared on Saturday Night Live in January). So tonight the group is playing its make-up date at our riverfront arena. A review of Bastille’s recent show in Toronto said the young crowd screamed a lot.
Fellow Synth Pop band Grizfolk opens tonight’s 8 p.m. show at U.S. Bank Arena. Tickets are $29.50-$35.
• It’s looking more and more like you’ll never get a chance to see Led Zeppelin perform live and in person ever again. But tonight you can see the “American Led Zeppelin,” Get the Led Out, at the Aronoff Center. Showtime is 8 p.m .Next best thing? If you go, let us know. It’s certainly going to cost you less than what it would to see the real deal — tickets are $33-$46.
• Eclectic Americana singer/songwriter Cory Branan plays Saturday night at 10 p.m. at Over-the-Rhine’s The Drinkery, one of the best newer live music clubs in the area. Local duo Rucca opens.
Branan has been drawing attention for his dynamic, boundless sound over the past 15 years, but his most recent album, The No-Hit Wonder, is earning him some of the best reviews of his career.
Writer Brian Baker spoke with Branan for a feature story in this week’s CityBeat. Branan said the diversity of styles that crop up in his songs just kind of happen naturally and is something never predetermined while a song is being written.
“I try not to impose on the song,” Branan says. “I end up in much more interesting places if I follow and see where it’s going. I overwrite a lot and go back with a machete instead of clippers, so I can end up three songs down from the one I started with, and that’s the interesting place for me. Then I sort of let them tell me what clothes they want to go out in, even down to the studio. Like ‘Sour Mash,’ I always pictured it as a flat-picked barnburner with fiddle and banjo, and then we were doing the record and I found out that Joe Fick, who’s a Memphis boy, was up in Nashville and he’s just the best doghouse (upright bass) player I’ve ever heard, so I was like, ‘OK, we’ll go a little more Sun Records on this one.’ I pivoted at the last minute.”
• Chicago Blues singer/songwriter/guitarist E.G. Kight performs Saturday at the DownTowne Listening Room, the intimate, “listener-friendly” new venue downtown in the historic Shillito’s building. Born in Georgie and based in Chicago, Kight is a cult favorite and has worked with everyone from B.B. King and Koko Taylor to Merle Haggard and George Jones. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $15 (all proceeds from shows at the Listening Room go to the performing artists).
• Legendary British Folk artist Richard Thompson plays the Dave Finkelman Auditorium on the campus of Miami University-Middletown Saturday night. Amanda Shires opens the 7:30 p.m. concert. The show is a part of Thompson's current acoustic tour in support of Acoustic Classics, an album featuring acoustic takes on some of the songwriter's favorite songs from his storied catalog. Tickets are $35 and available in advance here.
Check out Jason Gargano’s show preview for CityBeat here.
• Australian Electronic music composer/performer Ben Frost brings his tour behind his latest album A U R O R A to the Contemporary Arts Center on Sunday. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 ($10 for CAC members).
This is Electronica, but it’s neither conventional Electronic Dance music, pure-noise Industrial nor (solely) peacefully Ambient droning. Noirish and foreboding, thrilling and involving, it aurally paints a landscape that has been compared to Blade Runner. It unfolds for 40 minutes, like an urgent story. The music can be lulling, even comforting, in its brooding introspection, but it keeps building — it’s complicated like a symphony. Overall, it’s tough and emotional, with moments of grandeur along with reverence to minimalism.
• Some other Australian musicians will also be in town Sunday night. Psych Folk/Rock band Immigrant Union — fronted by Dandy Warhols member Brian DeBoer — plays Sunday a 10 p.m. show at Over-the-Rhine’s MOTR Pub with guests White Violet. Like all MOTR shows, it’s a freebie. DeBoer describes the 10-year-old band’s sound as “Spiritualized being (baptized) in a river of Creedence Clearwater.”
Click here for more live music events in Greater Cincinnati this weekend and feel free to promote other cool shows that were unmentioned in the comments.
Let’s take a moment to talk about Rock venues in the States, shall we? In my mind, there are two distinct types: you either have the nice, well-kept venues that often lack a certain spark that make them truly special or the dives that feel like a Punk Rock haven but smell like a dirty sock filled with cheese. You have to choose between fantastic atmosphere or a bathroom that’s actually been cleaned since The Sex Pistols were the next big thing.
Well, my friends, it seems that you can get the best out of both worlds; you just have to hop the pond and check out European venues. On this trip, I’ve been in an underground hall converted into a bar, a warehouse covered in graffiti and stickers, a youth center filled with murals slapped in the middle of a small town (and next to a church) and a venue in Berlin filled with so many weird and wonderful knick-knacks, I can’t wait to get home and start redecorating a little bit. I wanted to share some pictures and highlights of what we’ve seen so far.
The venue in Freiburg was called The White Rabbit and it was located underground, down several flights of stairs. The entrance was narrow but opened up to a large, cylindrical structure. We guessed that it was used as a bomb shelter or wine storage but the real origin was even more intriguing. It was originally the town’s coal chamber; the building above it had been leveled during the war and had been rebuilt.
Hamburg’s venue was the most surprising so far. As a Metal kid through and through, the graffiti and sticker-laden walls of Hafenklang instantly appealed to me. It had an industrial air about it and it felt just dirty enough. The wall adornments actually gave the place an artistic element. Somehow, hundreds — if not thousands — of taggers managed to create a cohesive composition worthy of any modern art museum.
Berlin has the honor of housing my favorite club yet. The Bassy Club was full of odd and awesome artifacts. I’m a big fan of weird decorations and this place was absolutely chock full of them. When we walked in, we all went into full tourist mode and started snapping pictures left and right. I now fully intend on finding a cow skull and making him a new light fixture when I make it back to the states.
Special kudos goes to Berlin for being an awesome city. We got a few hours to roam around and we ran into some sort of festival and found an awesome “Horror Rock Bar” called Last Cathedral. Sadly, it wasn’t open when we were walking around, so Nick and I had to resort to pulling an Immortal pose in front.
CityBeat contributor Nick Grever is currently traveling Europe on tour with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun. He will be blogging for citybeat.com regularly about the experience.
Though the traditional 10th anniversary gift is tin or aluminum (WTF?), a more fitting present for the Cincinnati label Phratry Records to congratulate it on its 10th year of service is your attendance at this weekend’s two-night Phratry showcase at Newport’s Southgate House Revival.
Local musician Jerry Dirr (Knife the Symphony) launched the label in 2004 with the release of the debut album by Cincinnati’s Caterpillar Tracks. Since then, the label has put out around 50 releases, which are distributed nationally by Stickfigure Distribution & Mailorder.
Friday and Saturday’s anniversary showcase will feature a mix of Phratry signees (both local and out-of-towners), reunions and special guests. Here’s the lineup info from my Spill It column in this week’s CityBeat:
Friday night, the Phratry showcase will present non-Cincinnati signings Ultrasphinx (Akron, Ohio), Tyranny is Tyranny (Madison, Wisc.) and The Shanks (Toronto), plus currently active local Phratry bands Mad Anthony and Gazer. Friday will also see the return of Covington and thistle, whose own Tiberius Records teamed up with Dirr just as Phratry was getting started to release the compilation album Organelle. It will be thistle’s first show in three years. Friday’s lineup is rounded out by Indie Folk artist A.M. Nice, Reggae/Rock crew New Third Worlds, a reunion of former local Punk favorites Saturday Supercade and Jonathan Lohr & the Angel Shale, an AltCountry project that features former members of Caterpillar Tracks (whose debut album was Phratry’s first release).
Dirr’s own band Knife the Symphony plays the Phratry showcase Saturday, joined by one of the label’s most recent local signees Smoke Signals …, the hard-touring Ampline, progressive Post Punk/Metal band Mala in Se, State Song (which released the spectacular full-length Sleepcrawling earlier this year on the label) and blistering Punk group Swear Jar. Also performing Saturday are Pittsburgh-based Ed fROMOHIO, the former singer/guitarist of Mike Watt’s post-Minutemen band fIREHOSE whose more recent band Food records for Phratry, experimental unit Aperiodic and Heevahava, a former Greater Cincinnati band now based in Roanoke, Va. Saturday also features a pair of reunion shows local Punk fans should be pretty psyched about; both East Arcadia (which included/includes members of Phratry band Arms Exploding) and The Scrubs will reactivate their wonder-twin powers for the event.
In honor of Phratry’s 10th birthday, I’ve selected 10 of my favorite tracks from the label’s output so far. I hesitate to call these Phratry’s “greatest hits,” because everything the label puts out is excellent, but these tracks should give you a good idea of what the imprint is all about. You can peruse the entire catalog of available Phratry releases here.
Caterpillar Tracks - “Slippery Slope” from Scrape the Summer (2007)
thistle - “Ribbons” from The Small Hours (2008)
Humans Bow Down - “The White Sun” from A Mirror (2004)
Mad Anthony - “Sank for Days” from Sank for Days (2014)
Tyranny is Tyranny - “Manufacturing Truth” from Let It Come From Whom It May (2013)
State Song - “Skeleton Key” from Dear Hearts & Gentle People (2010)
Ampline - “Our Carbon Dreams” from You Will Be Buried Here (2010)
Knife the Symphony - “Rusted Satellites” from Dead Tongues (2009)
Arms Exploding - “Race Card Driver” from Ruminari (2008)
Gazer - “A Nurse for a Human” from Fake Bulbs (2014)
Texas Blues artist Ruthie Foster plays Oakley’s 20th Century tonight with local great Kim Taylor opening. Foster’s first album came out in 1997, but her last two (2009’s The Truth According to Ruthie Foster and 2012’s Let It Burn) really helped her make a name for herself; both earned Grammy nominations. Her latest is Promise of a Brand New Day, which mixes her Blues base with a variety of other influences.
From Steven Rosen's CityBeat show preview:
The singer/bassist Meshell Ndegeocello produced Promise of a Brand New Day and her and Foster’s intentions are announced in the very first song, the Foster-penned “Singing the Blues,” on which Foster intones “A little bit of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland never gets old.” Bland, the great and dramatic singer whose voice could smoothly move from a whisper to a scream, proves a great inspiration for Foster. So, too, does Bonnie Raitt — Foster’s voice has the same level of warmth and generosity on some of the new songs.
Tickets for tonight’s show (a “seats only” affair) are $22-$25.
• Buzzin’ indie rockers Dreamers play a free show tonight at 10 p.m. at MOTR Pub. Great Columbus, Ohio Indie Rock crew Indigo Wild opens. In promo materials, Dreamers’ sound is described as a “unique brand of grunge that is nostalgic for a space somewhere between art-school eccentric and the late 1970s punk scene” and Stereogum says, “They’ve taken little bits and pieces from the past six decades of rock and molded it into something fresh and interesting.”
Dreamers’ self-titled debut EP is set for release Nov. 18. The music video for the EP’s “Waste My Night” recently premiered on Vice/Noisey.
• For the past several years longtime local Pop radio station Q102 has been bringing in hitmakers to perform at its Bosom Ball concert, raising money for various breast cancer research and awareness organizations. The Bosom Ball returns tonight to Covington’s Madison Theater for its 10th annual event.
This year’s concert features popular Pop Rock band O.A.R., British Pop singer Katy Tiz, the duo Alex & Sierra (winners of season three of The X Factor) and Mary Lambert, the Seattle singer/songwriter whose appearance on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ hit “Same Love” thrust her into the national spotlight (her debut full-length for Capitol Records, Heart on My Sleeve, was released Oct. 14). Bosom Ball proceeds are being donated to Susan G. Komen and The American Cancer Society’s breast cancer programs.
The show (open to those 21-and-up only) officially sold out earlier this week, but tickets are still available for the all-ages “Q102 Bosom Ball Underage Sound Check Party,” which takes place at 4 p.m. and features a performance from Alex & Sierra. Tickets are $10. http://www.cincyticket.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=2286
• Punk legends Misfits play Newport’s Thompson House tonight. The influential band was formed in 1977 by Glenn Danzig, who dissolved the band in the early ’80s when he formed Samhain (and then Danzig). Band members Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein and Jerry Only reactivated Misfits in the mid ’90s and, with various lineup changes, Misfits have continued to release albums and tour ever since. The current lineup of the band includes Only, singer/guitarist Dez Cadena (who spent some time fronting Black Flag in the early ’80s) and Eric "Chupacabra" Arce, former drummer for Murphy’s Law.
Here’s a track off of Misfits’ recent live album, Dead Alive!
Tonight’s show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.
• Dynamic Roots Rock crew Sons of Bill plays Newport’s Southgate House Revival tonight at 9 p.m. with guests Brave Baby. Tickets are $10.
Sons of Bill recently released its new album, Love and Logic, produced by former Wilco member Ken Coomer. The music video for Sons of Bill’s “Lost in the Cosmos” single (a tribute to Big Star singer/songwriter/guitarist Chris Bell) was recently premiered by Rolling Stone, which calls the new album “a classic roots-rock record for the modern age, filled with B3 organ, acoustic guitar, envelope-pushing arrangements and the sound of three siblings whose voices were born to mesh.”
Know of other good live music options for tonight in Greater Cincinnati? Share details in the comments.
• Ohio Hip Hop crew Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are still kicking. The ensemble, called by MTV the “most melodic Hip Hop group of all time” (thanks largely to their deft ability to work melodies not only into chorus hooks, but also their rhymes), performs at Bogart’s tonight at 7 p.m.
The group, which came into the national spotlight in 1993 when Eazy-E signed it to Ruthless Records, won a Grammy in 1997 for “The Crossroads” (a tribute to their late mentor). Bone Thugs’ current tour is their first in a while to feature all of the original members. The group recently made news when it started its own “TV channel,” which is actually an internet channel that will simulcast the crew’s homecoming concert in Cleveland tomorrow night (for a fee). The big homecoming show will feature backing from a full orchestra; proceeds from the pay-per-view broadcast benefit their hometown non-profit, Roots of American Music.
This should be one of the last times to catch the original Bone Thugs — the group has announced its next album and upcoming dates will be its last with the full lineup.
• Indie Rock heroes Surfer Blood perform tonight at The Southgate House Revival in Newport. The Florida-based band broke through in 2010, the same year Surfer Blood appeared at Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival (where so many people showed up for the show, many had to be turned away at the door). The band is currently touring behind its sophomore album, last year’s Pythons. Surfer Blood recently came off a tour with We Are Scientists. The two bands also released a tour-only split single; you can hear Surfer Blood’s contribution here.
Read Jason Gargano's preview of the show from this week's CityBeat here.
Virginia based trio Eternal Summers opens tonight’s 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $17.
• Folk/Roots duo The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank play a free show tonight at MOTR Pub. The Minnesota-based twosome’s 2013 album Number One Contender was called one of the best Minnesota-made albums of last year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. You can listen to it in its entirety below.
Know of other good live music options for tonight in Greater Cincinnati? Share details in the comments.
When researching Bogart’s for the first of these columns, I discovered a place that used to be its side-stream neighbor. Sudsy Malone’s, which sat just across the street from Bogart’s until 2008, may be a well-known name to older Cincinnatians, but to those of my generation I imagine it’s a legend unheard.
Sudsy’s, as those who knew it well referred to it, was more than just a bar or music venue. It was a laundromat. A gathering place of locals who fancied having a beer and hearing a tune as their clothes turned over in bubbly cleanliness. And while it was only open for a fraction of the time many of the big venues around here have been, it occupies a deep space in the history of Cincinnati and its local music scene.
Refined searches and several page scrolls through Google turns up hardly anything on the former venue. I finally found a memorial Facebook page that further fascinated me, still only offering a brief and general history but filled with posts by former loyal patrons reminiscing of great times at the bar, offering tales of hilarious happenings along with images, videos and old posters to fill it all in with color.
I wanted to know more in hopes of giving Sudsy’s its due place in Cincinnati music history. To understand where it all started and where it went from there, I talked to Janine Walz, a former managing partner who was around during the establishment’s heyday.
Sudsy’s was originally owned by John Cioffi and opened in 1986. As I understand it, the idea was inspired by similar businesses popping up in the region such as Dirty Dungarees in Columbus. They serve beer, so you can sip some foam while listening to the groan of washers and dryers, but Dungaree’s was never quite a bar. They served drinks in more of a refreshment center style. Cioffi’s vision for Sudsy’s was different.
The decision for the name came from a lot of scrawling and scratching by Cioffi and his family.
“They just had a long list of names that they would write down as they were brainstorming, and then they started crossing names out until it was down to Soapy Tucker’s or Sudsy Malone’s,” Walz says.
Sharp, the highly adored Renaissance man known for his ballet career in
Cincinnati and who sadly just passed away in September, designed the character
logos. Soapy Tucker was a sort of motherly figure, whereas Sudsy Malone was a true
He became the face of the place, with his one-eyed look, suds-filled beer and coin-flipping hand becoming the calling card of the bar’s sign.
Upon walking in the front door guests faced a 40-foot bar.
“We would have competitions to see who could slide a mug full of beer the furthest down the bar without spilling it,” Walz recalls with a smile.
They had little round cocktail tables covered with dark blue tablecloths and standard bar stools. The ceiling undulated with the movement of fans under which each had a globular light, providing a sort of soft ambiance to the bar.
At the back of the building sat the laundry area, a brightly lit room where the fluorescent lights glinted off dozens of top-of-the-line washers and dryers.
“I remember some of the bands complaining after a while about the laundry room lights because they would glow into the bar and kill the mood for the crowd,” Walz says. “We strung up some Christmas lights and would just turn those on instead when bands were on stage at night.”
When the place first opened, however, the stage didn’t exist. Live music had never even been part of the idea.
“It was only intended to be a laundromat with frosty-mug beer,” Walz says of the original plan.
Walz recalls being the second laundry customer when Sudsy’s first opened. She worked at the Perkins just up Short Vine, and happened to be John Cioffi’s waitress the day he sat down to get food with the liquor agent that was supposed to be approving Sudsy’s license.
“When they were finishing lunch he asked me to come a few doors down to talk to him about a job,” she says. “I figured it was the same distance from home and might pay better, so I went. Next thing I knew I was hired on as a manager.”
In other words, she was there from the start. Walz watched the bar being built, and she knew it when it was just a place for people to wash clothes and have a drink, the crowd rarely exceeding 10 people.
Only months after the place opened, a local band called The Thangs approached the owners with the idea to play music. Essentially, they just wanted a place to gig when nowhere else would let them. After some hesitation, Sudsy’s let them do it, and much to their surprise the first show was packed with about 100 people. Sudsy’s wasn’t expecting this, and they completely sold out of every drop of beer they had stocked at the time.
outrageous success, The Thangs wanted to come back. Before long, music became
the detergent to Sudsy’s suds, responsible for consistently bringing in large
crowds. At first they charged a very minimal cover, mostly so they had
something to give the band, and offered a free soft-drink ticket with entry for
By ’87 they were charging a $5 cover, although they would still let people in for free if they had a basket of laundry. This often resulted in washers full of abandoned clothes the next day, as people brought the clothes to get in and then simply forgot about them in the excitement of music and merriment. Over time, Sudsy’s developed a massive collection of forsaken threads.
This memory sparked another for Walz: “I remember this guy that would show up about once every year driving a station wagon. He would take the clothes people had left over time and pack every inch of his car, literally. He would do something with them, I think donate them.”
As the place continually packed in people like foam to the top of a mug — thanks to the highly praised booking magic of Dan McCabe (Now of MOTR Pub) — problems inevitably occurred that now seem laughable. The carpet in the bar area became so matted and disgusting that it resembled tile, so Walz had it ripped out and replaced with wood. The men’s bathroom was a story of its own. Widely known as “Worst Men’s Bathroom,” Walz said she wouldn’t go near it, even almost buying stainless steel sheets to layer on it so she could just hose it down at night.
At one point the fire department came in and completely cleared house, although there wasn’t a single flame or wisp of smoke. The building’s stated capacity was far under how many people they would pack in, and one night they had to count the crowd back in, one by one. Eventually they completely stopped the music for a period of time to get the building up to code.
Despite its small size, Sudsy’s brought in now-major acts that were rising at the time — Beck, Smashing Pumpkins and Red Hot Chili Peppers — while also helping breed local acts like The Afghan Whigs and Over The Rhine. Almost all the music was original, save some special events like Grateful Dead night.
Even on nights they weren’t playing themselves, members of bands could always be found among the crowd. The music scene at the time was like a circle, made up of bands and fans that truly appreciated music and enjoyed simply watching people express themselves creatively. Bands would come out and support other bands. Non-musicians would out come and support them all.
and celebrities that were too big to play there live in the storybooks.
Popularly known folks like Jackson Browne, "Weird Al" Yankovic and
James Taylor stopped in to wash clothes or use the phone. Kate Pierson (B52s)
and Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) came by during their Tide protest to pass
out literature in affiliation with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Walz recalls the afternoon before a Jefferson Airplane concert at Riverbend when the bar was pretty empty and there were four guys hanging out doing laundry and drinking a beer. They were worried about their cab not showing up and frantically trying to figure out how to get to their hotel — so Walz drove them. Only after dropping them off did she realize the reason the dudes were so worried about being late.
Walz showed me the blueprint of the building, and again lit up when she pointed out the wash sink in the laundry room.
“Some crazy celebrity took a bath in that sink one night,” she says. “I’m pretty sure it was Marilyn Manson.”
And these stop-ins aren’t the only “celebrity” claims to fame for Sudsy’s. The bar itself was given awards throughout the years from Cincinnati’s former alternative weekly Everybody’s News, from “Best Looking Staff” to “Best Rock Club,” and even “Best Place to Ditch a Blind Date.” They were also named the best bar in Ohio in ’93 by Creem magazine, courtesy of The Connells.
However, all the press, awards and celebrities aside, Walz says what really made the place special were the local patrons.
“It was like a family, people were loyal,” she says. “They would look out for others, and for the bands, and would always defend Sudsy’s no matter what. Without the people, everybody, the people that watched the bands, the bands themselves, Sudsy’s was nothing.”
The bar would even cater specifically to bands they knew well, for example stocking extra Hudy Delight when The Thangs would come back because their crowd loved to drink it.