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".