Sunday, November 27, 2005

Patio - a live music institution closes its doors

Last night, Saturday, November 26, 2005 one of the best live rock "n" roll music clubs in the country closed. The Patio, located at 6308 N. Guilford Avenue in the Broad Ripple section of Indianapolis, which has been in business for over 40 years, hosted their last live music venue.

The current owner, Steve Ross who also owns another popular club in Broad Ripple know as The Vogue, says the audiences have become too small at the Patio, but stops short of pronouncing live music in the trendy Broad Ripple Village as a dead issue. "If for some reason the DJ format rolls out of favor, the Vogue could go back to what it used to do - which is bands five nights a week," Ross said. The press has reported in all of their interviews with the owners the club that the Patio is closing due to declining business and less interest in live music venues.

One musican, and former employee of the club, Jeff Sample, was quoted in the paper over the weekend saying "There are a whole lot of cutting-edge bands that are getting their start and will go on to great things," Sample said. "It's a shame the Patio won't be there to help make that happen." He added "It's all about packing cattle into a bar and paying a DJ in the corner".

Musician and former Flat Earth Records label manager Mark Kocher said "the Patio is the heart and soul or real rock 'n' roll in this town," "Having said that, I think we as music consumers and music fans did it a disservice. We came out when we felt like it. We have no one but ourselves to blame."

The Patio is a very small cramped club that feels like you are going back into the sixties in terms of what the live rock "n" roll club music scene was like. The place is set up for great sound and nothing more. After walking inside from a small sidewalk on Guilford Ave, you encounter a very cramped but cozy environment. Low ceilings, lots of stage lights, no fancy artwork, no chairs or tables, two bars and the rest is standing room where you cram yourself as close to stage as you can and rock with the band.

In fact, even last night, where the environment was unchanged, you could literally lean on the stage and be at the feet of the microphones and musicians. These types of venues are a thing of the past, and experiencing the Patio as a patron or musician is a rite-of-passage for anyone in the midwest who aspires to be a musician or wants to experience an authentic rock "n" roll club. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced the Whiskey a Go Go and Troubadour in LA and the Bitter End in NYC, all clubs from the 60's that are still operating and virtually unchanged since the days many of the best musicians in the world got their starts in these three very small clubs. The Patio, without reservation is in the same class as all of these clubs.

As you listen to the music, jockey for a better position in the crowd, or simply close your eyes and listen to that wonderful sound of good live music, miked with a great house PA system, and acousitics that have been tweeked through the years by glueing carpet mat and egg cartons (spray painted black) to the ceiling and walls, you literally cannot tell if you are at a club in London, LA or NYC. The Patio is that good.

In my 25 years of visiting the Patio and also playing there on one occasion, I read the press on Friday and decided I should attend the last show. I left about 9:00 pm and drove to Broad Ripple where the local news had already staked out several spots for the coverage. I walked right inside after paying a $5.00 cover charge and the Patio felt like an old friend. Same colors, same stage lights, same stage, same everything. The crowd was a mix of 60 year olds down to the 21 crowd. I was simply amazed at the crowd etiquette and common courtesy - no pushing, excuse me, thank you....the sorts of things we have come to believe don't happen late at night in music clubs these days. It felt good, it felt right. I suppose 20 years ago we would have said "it has good karma", and I can say after my experience last night, it still does....

The Red Hot Chili Peppers performed at the Patio in 1985. The Smashing Pumpkins attracted about 20 customers who paid a $2 admission fee in 1990. Alanis Morissete sang to a packed house in 1995.

But last night is was Otis Gibbs who headlined. He told a story of playing there for the first time 15 years ago and a "biker looking guy" walked in in the wee hours of the morning, leaned on the PA speaker and after a couple of songs said "give me that guitar". Otis did so and he introduced himself as Dicky Betts, the ex-Allman Brothers Band guitarist who had been playing two blocks away at the Vogue. Another story surfaced this week in the press where local radio personality and comedian Dave "the King" Wilson shared his memories of David Letterman sharpening his stand-up routine there. This was a period of time when Letterman was one of our local weather newsmen; he grew up in Broad Ripple and attended Broad Ripple High School which is three blocks east of the Patio.

The history of the Patio can be found on their website, however since it is not clear if that site will be maintained, I am paraphrasing some of the relevant history from their site which is from a press release dated October 21, 2005.

"The Patio began its history as a live music club in 2950 when it was called the Terrace Lounge. That name changed to Lazas Cocktail Lounge until 1954. In 1955 it became the Pink Squirrel. Then in 1960 it became The Doris in Broad Ripple (no one seems to know who Doris was) . The name of The Patio began in 1962 when it was named Jim Moore's Patio Bar, which was only about half of the size it is now. As the smaller businesses moved out of the building, the Patio expanded into their space. Eventualy, in approximately 1977, the Patio became the size it is today under the ownership of Arthur "Chubby" Wadsworth. Chubby was a well known character in and around Broad Ripple. He ran the Patio, with the help of Tyrone Tice and Randy Roy, they operated the as the Patio Lounge with live rock bands. At that time the Patio was one of only three live music clubs in Broad Ripple. Thes three included the Vogue, the Patio and the Garage (the Garage operated out of where Cardinal Fitness is now.) In 1985 Chubby sold the Patio to Randy Roy. Then in 1987, Randy sold the Patio Lounge to Steve Ross and Dennis Burris who called it the Patio Nightclub, but most people just call it "the Patio".

Going into the Patio will be a new club operated by David and Maggie Lee owners of Naked Tchopstix in Broad Ripple. Naked Tchopstix is a sushi bar and operates in the building south of the Vogue.

Jeff Sample, vocalist for Gravelbed, a regular band at the Patio and a former employee of the nightclub perhaps says it the best "the first clue of the Patio's demise should have been the arrival of a Starbuck's at the corner of Broad Ripple and Guilford avenues".

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Johnny Cash - "Walk the Line" Movie

As a musician, I was thrilled to see a movie produced on the legendary Johnny Cash. My wife and I saw the film, released on November 18, 2005, last night. The movie "Walk the Line" profiles Cash's early up-bringing through the most volatile period of his career where he evolved from self-destructive pop star, into the iconic "Man in black". Fighting demons and fighting for the love that would lift him up, this movie captures Cash's early career and lengedary love affair with June Carter Cash as he walks the line between destruction and redemption.

Johnny Cash was born to a farm family in Kingsland, Arkansas in 1932. He went to Memphis in 1955, and walked into the soon-to-be-famous Sun Studio and sang blistering songs of heartache and survival that were gutsy, full of real life and unlike anthing heard before. It was at Sun that he later recorded hits such as "I Walk the Line" (1956) and "Ring of Fire" (1963), written with his wife, singer June Carter Cash of the famous country dynasty The Carter Family.

A major figure in country and western music, Cash's unique style, all-black wardrobe and often tragic subject matter in his songs, made him once of country music's biggest stars. Cash mixed elements of folk, country, and rock in his music winning 11 Grammies and was elected to both the Country Music and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I have always listened to Johnny Cash. I think my up-bringing as a musician naturally caused me to expose myself to many different artists and genres. Cash's music is clearly a distinct, different style and the lyrics are of the sort that are simple, and remind us of our own vulnerabilities and imperfections. Recently, when my son asked me to write down my favorite 20 songs as a young man; I listed one of them as Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire". (see entry, October 23, 2005)

I was fortunate enough to see Johnny Cash live sometime in the late 1970's at Little Nashville Opry located about 50 miles south of Indianapolis, and about 5 miles south of Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival. I attended this concert with my parents shortly after coming home from the service in 1977. I assume it was between 1977 and 1980. I remember the concert itself as if it was yesterday.

Little Nashville at that time had barn doors on stage like the backdrop of the Grand Ole Opry. The musicians would enter the stage from the middle and come through the barn door. I remember the announcer saying: "Ladies and Gentleman - the Man in Black, Mr. Johnny Cash". We were sitting in one of the first few rows (it seems like maybe row 4 or 5) and when he walked out he seemed bigger than life.

Dressed out in a black suit, long shiny hair, and a guitar around his neck, he walked straight to the front of the stage, nodded, and then said "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash".

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Mark Cuban, Andrew Carnegie & Indiana University's Kelley School of Business

Mark Cuban, the Chairman, President & Co-Founder, HDNet, Co-Founder, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks graduated from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business in 1981, where he received a BS in Management & Administration. Mark was a member of the rugby team and as a senior, gained hands-on buisness experience when he opened and ran a bar on Kirkwood Avenue in Bloomington, across the street from Nick's English Hut, called Motley's Pub. He was only 21 years old. Motley's was a good venture until the awkward event of a wet T-shirt contestant, and several other patorns, turned out to be underage. The bar now runs under a new name. However, Dallas Mavericks fans or IU/Bloomington loyalists can stop at a bar on the terrace level of the American Airlines Center and have a beer guessed it "Motley's Pub".

William L. Haeberle, professor emertius of management and senior fellow at the Johnson Center for Entrepreneuship & Innovation at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business had Cuban as a student. I have recently become acquainted with Dr. Haeberle through a group he founded called the The Alliance. The purpose of The Alliance is to connect senior executives of privately held Indiana companies through a quarterly forum consisting of 2 days of dialogue and discussion on critical business and leadership issues facing Indiana entrepreneurs. Dr. Haeberle told me he had Mark's class read Andrew Carnegie's "The Gospel of Wealth", published in 1889. Dr. Haeberle went on to tell me "it's my patriotic duty to make money." He told me to read the book and I would understand the learning. I have now since done that and understand exactly why he had his students read Carnegie's work.

I also did some research on Cuban and noticed he is listed on the Kelley School of Business website with the following commentary on his education; "during the course of the semester, we read Andrew Carnegie, which discussed how it was patriotic to be wealthy, and all the good one would be able to do. He (Dr. Haeberle) probably had more to do with my entrepreneurial education than anyone."

As a faculty member myself, I have been struggling with how to help students understand the balance between creating individual wealth and giving of their talents for the betterment of society. Carnegie clearly provides an intellectually challenging work to help us sort through that.

So.......Dr. Haeberle and Mr. Cuban, another group of students will now become exposed to this important work as we study capitalism, free enterprize and democratic societies.

"Andrew Carnegie (1835 - 1919) was a massively successful business man - his wealth was based on the provision of iron and stell to the railways, but also a man who recalled his radical roots in Scotland before his immigration to the United States. To resolve what might seem to be contradictions between the creation of wealth, which he saw as proceeding from immutable social laws, and social provision he came up with the notion of the "gospel of wealth". He lived up to his work, and gave away his fortune to socially beneficial projects, most famously by funding libraries. His approval of death taxes might suprise modern billionaires!

On Andrew Carnegie's tombstone reads the following:

"Here lies a man who knew how to enlist the service of better men than himself."