We say goodbye to the Patio 

Reflections on the local music linchpin

The renowned rock club the Patio closes this weekend, but the memories it created during its existence as the premier rock club in Indianapolis will last a lifetime. The announcement of its closing literally stunned the local music scene. In tribute to the renowned nightclub, NUVO solicited reminiscences from a variety of voices in the Indianapolis community.

The final show at the Patio, featuring Otis Gibbs, Gravelbed and Randy King, will take place Saturday, Nov. 26. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and admission is $5.

Good dirt
By Jonee Quest
Patio’s house engineer

Some say I started in 1991, but I consider 1992 to be when I became the regular house engineer. I don’t really remember how I got the job. It was more like osmosis. I just kinda slowly seeped in until it became more or less full-time.

Matt Schwegman (the Patio booking agent) and I played around with the math on this the other day. We figured an extremely conservative estimate would be somewhere around 10,000 sets, but I bet the real figure is something like 15,000 to 17,000.

Anything that sounds good is a great time for me. I guess a lot of my favorite shows are the ones where I get surprised by a band I’d never heard of. Mofro, Here Come the Mummies, Burning Brides, Imperial Drag, Syrup and the Blacks come to mind. When you’ve sat though as much live music as I have anything that’s a surprise kind of blows you away. Also, the shows with a room full of people goin’ crazy over some nutty band like The New Duncan Imperials or the Fuglees are a gas, but my super-secret favorite set of all time is Johnny Socko’s Halloween tribute to Journey, like, 30 minutes of it. I was just dying. Now, I ain’t no Journey fan but “Stone in Love” kicked the shit out of me. I still laugh about it.

Least favorite? Wow, that’s tough. Honestly, most of the bad ones I just made enough jokes about until the entire show was something we all laughed about. Now, a couple things do go beyond that, one was Dramarama. It sucked because I got in this argument with Clement Burke (Blondie’s drummer and one of my favorites) that almost came to blows. The other was ... (sorry, Jeff) the Patio Christmas Party. Now, that was work. Though I loved all the people who came and wanted them to have fun, wall-to-wall bands and a room full of drunkies that are tough to get through, all asking, “Why aren’t you having fun?” is a cross between familial abuse and being the lone waiter on a 300 top.

In my years working at the Patio, I really can’t think of anything that weird, though I am always amazed at people trying to use their cell phones in 112db of rock.

I will say the strangest thing I ever saw at the Patio is a two-way tie between: 1) the night someone shot the men’s toilet with a .45 (I remember saying, “They finally did it, they killed the toilet.”) and 2) the night where I saw a girl licking beer off the bar and then ran into her like an hour later when she told me, “That was odd, I passed out and when I woke up I had [a music-scene regular’s] dick in my mouth.”

The last night at the Patio is gonna be somewhere between attending my own funeral and The Fall of Saigon. As far as post-Patio, I really haven’t decided. I’ll be taking a few weeks off since I haven’t had even seven days in a row off since I started there. After that, anybody interested in having a nice sound guy work for them can e-mail me at HireQuest@indy.rr.com. Really.

Hell, I gotta say everybody I worked with helped me there, especially all the managers, both Patio and Vogue. Roger Borst, Rowdy Cupp, Jeff Sample, Glen Labita, John Stowers, Shelly, Guido, Marc Black, Jason Cancel, the Brads, Norton and Matt Schwegman. They’re the guys who listened when I had any issues with the system, the bands or my workload. They did anything they could to lessen the strain, let me know at least someone could relate and made good on the promise that one day it would be better.

In my tenure (what I call “the Modern Era”) I’d say it was the dirt, dirt and lots of it, you know, the down and dirty. I mean, there’s gotta be a place where people go to get loose, real loose, and that was the Patio. Would you really wanna see someone like Clutch or Southern Culture (on the Skids) in some kind of fru-fru Disney World mall bar? Hell no. You’d wanna be someplace where you can drink, smoke, sweat, spit, fight and fuck. Well, maybe not fight, but at least a place that tolerates a bit o’ roughhousin’.

The sound at the Patio wasn’t always nice. Hell, it isn’t that nice now, but when I first started it was pretty dreadful. The speakers were horribly underpowered and meant for outdoors, that is, if the speakers are where they are now they’d’ve sounded right somewhere around the Kroger parking lot. We all just hung in and made do until things finally started getting better around the late ’90s. I guess the key element to it sounding as good as it does is the carpet. Yes, the awful thing that most people complain about is the very thing that makes that room sound better than most!

I will remember …
By Sean Patrick Rodriguez
Assistant general manager at the Patio

What will you remember about the Patio when they close the doors for good? What vision comes to mind when you think of the Patio? Is it the huge Patio neon sign on Guilford Avenue? Is it the pole directly in front of the stage?

I will remember the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing in their tighty whiteys. I will remember the Zero Boys and Raw Meat. Duke Tomato wearing a flashlight on his head, playing a very small wireless electric guitar. Here Come the Mummies dancing through the crowd, playing drums on their way to the stage. Jonee Quest standing behind the board in the sound booth. I will remember Chubby Wadsworth.

Up close and personal, the Patio was certainly that. This was the place to go to rock ’n’ roll, socialize and drink with the band. The intimate nature of the room put you a mere 5 feet from rock idols, real or aspiring, and packed you in next to everyone else. Just this past Nov. 5, Juliette Lewis performed with her band The Licks. Near the end of the show, she went crowd surfing: Now that is what I call up close and personal.

The Band Room

I saw bands on the way up and on the way down. I was lucky to experience so much music and meet so many people. Some bands were so excited to play the Patio; for some, it was a sign that their band had somehow made it.

I do not know what you will remember about the Patio when we lock the doors, turn out the lights and close for good. I hope that you remember seeing a band that you liked and that you danced like a fool and sang along.

I will remember the music. I picture a packed house, the band is jamming, the crowd is moving and even the bartenders are bouncing up and down. I will remember sitting alone in the Patio, sitting and thinking of the thousands of bands that have graced the stage there and the hundreds and hundreds of bands that I must have seen play there live. That memory alone will be sweet music to me.

Some home runs, some strike outs
By Matt Schwegman
Entertainment manager, the Vogue and the Patio

When I first moved to Indy in May 2000 to be the entertainment manager of both the Vogue and the Patio, I thought the Vogue would be my home away from home. Boy, was I wrong. I fell in love with the Patio the first time I stepped foot in the door. “Rock ’n’ roll dirty, smoky, loud” … I had a feeling I would spend quite a few nights here.

I was right.

Over the next five and a half years, this was my favorite place to go in Indy. I always told people, “Even if I didn’t book this place, I would still hang out here.” Luckily, however, I was fortunate enough to book the place. I had some home runs, had some miserable strike outs, but most of all, I had fun.

I am going to miss the staff, I am going to miss playing Xbox FIFA 2006 up in the office until the wee hours of the morning, I am going to miss getting a bit tipsy now and then (who am I kidding, a lot), I am going to miss seeing a great band for the first time, I am even going to miss seeing a bad band for the last time. I am going to miss this place.

A lofty level
By Steve Hayes
Editor, IndianapolisMusic.Net

From the time I started playing in bands, performing at the Patio was always a goal. It seems my bands could always find some stage to play and other clubs have certainly felt more like home along the way. But playing the Patio was always a special event.

I’m not sure why I lofted the club to that level so early on. It might be because I’d heard it advertised on the radio when I was growing up in Muncie and dreamt about how cool it must be to play in a band that was playing a club in Indy. It might be because I saw so many great shows there once I moved to Indy. Maybe it was the long history. Maybe it was the cool marquee (still one of the finest nighttime sights in Indy).

For whatever the reason, playing a show at the Patio always seemed a bit more prestigious than gigs at other clubs. To quote myself from a piece about the closing of the Patio:

“Playing any show at the Patio meant you were a band worth seeing. A weekend show meant you were a band to be reckoned with locally. A weekend headlining slot meant you were one of the best, most popular acts in the city. The Patio represented prestige to many musicians, but it was an attainable prestige that helped artists reach for higher goals.”

When Hammer asked me to participate in this send-off for the Patio, I didn’t want to simply retell the story from that article, so I tried to recall what my fondest memory on the Patio stage was. Ultimately, my mind went back to the first time I was ever on the stage.

I believe it was 1996 when the club’s booking manager, Jeff Sample, invited my band to play the yearly Shady ’80s show. With two weeks of picking and practicing the perfect songs for the night under our belts, we headed in for our first time on the Patio stage.

As we prepared to start, I noted it was odd to be playing for a crowd that included more than just our friends. We went through the set with relative ease. My personal payoff, though, was when I stepped up for our version of the Outfield’s “Your Love” featuring me on way-too-high falsetto vocals. As soon as I dropped the “Josie’s on a vacation far away” line, I heard a general roar go up from the crowd. Even though it wasn’t one of our songs, we managed to move the crowd at the Patio in Indianapolis. I still remember the exact sound of the crowd and the gratifying feeling I earned from it.

Since then I’ve played good nights and quiet nights at the Patio. I’ve also been lucky to witness a lot of the most talked about shows from the last five years. Justin Allen of The Slurs washing the crowd with glitter, the mad rock theater of the one-night only Danny Rollings Project and seeing Rev. Peyton & The Big Damn Band and the Crypto-Kats play back-to-back for a packed house are all fond memories.

When the Patio’s doors finally close to live music and I think back on the place, I believe I’ll still think back to looking out over the crowd and letting that slice of ’80s nostalgia rip without regard for the short-term damage it does to my voice. And every time Jeff Sample invites us to play Shady ’80s, we dust off that tune and do it again for old time’s sake. Too bad those performances can’t match the first time at the Patio.

Changing my life forever
By Megan Schmidt

My most memorable event happened in March of ’99. I had just moved to Indy a few months earlier and some friends from work talked me into going to a Wednesday night show at the Patio. Michaelangelo was playing.

I walked into the bar for the first time and was amazed ... at how short everyone was. I am a tall gal and I could easily see over everyone in the bar.

I made a comment to my co-worker that people were staring at me because I looked like a freak of nature, and that I was sure no guys would come talk to me.

My friend then made a bet (a Rolling Rock) that if I stood by the bar for five minutes, a guy would talk to me. I quickly took my place at the corner of the bar, my view of the band partly obstructed by the poles that hold the ceiling from falling. As I went from staring at my watch to looking out at my friends dancing in the middle of the crowd, about four minutes into the bet, I got asked the question, “What do you think of the band?”

It was a guy. His name was Joe. I lost the bet.

We didn’t even exchange phone numbers — we just chatted throughout the rest of the show about our jobs, our hometowns, how we ended up in Indy. He was a nice guy. That next week, I got a call at my office and it was Joe.

He said, “I’m not a stalker, I just remember that you coached here and I had to ask you to dinner.”

We dated for two years, spending many of our nights out going to Johnny Socko, Knee Deep Shag, Dave and Rae and, of course, Mike and Joe concerts at the Patio. We have been married for four years and have a 7-month-old son. We thought having a baby was the end of our youth but we always had those random nights where G-ma and G-pa would watch Joey and we would go to the Patio for a concert.

Now this is REALLY the end of our youth.

Thanks for changing my life forever, Patio!

The early ’80s
By Ed Johnson-Ott
Film editor, NUVO

The early ’80s were a great time for original rock music in Indianapolis. The Zero Boys, Your Parents, The Hoosier Daddies and The Last Four Digits were just a few of the bands offering unique takes on songwriting, performance, stage presentation and style. I was the founder and lead singer of The Future, and we were in the thick of the scene.

For bands like ours, the center of the universe was Crazy Al’s, a fantastic club at the corner of 54th and College (the Jazz Kitchen is there now) that catered to the punk/new wave/rockabilly/all related subgenres crowd. I dearly loved Crazy Al’s and could easily write a long, juicy article on the golden days there.

But we’re reflecting on the Patio right now and the club had a personality of its own. Playing at the Vogue and the Patio was a must for any local band wanting to be taken seriously. They were the venues of record and if you didn’t play at one, or preferably both, then you weren’t real.

The Patio was the scrappy little brother of the Vogue. While Crazy Al’s was the club for fans of edgy rock, the Patio was the club for fans of all kinds of rock. The joint jumped. It had vitality. At most clubs, there was a marked separation between the performers and the audience, but at the Patio, the crowd was right there. It made for some uncomfortable moments — if they didn’t like you, they really let you know it — but it gave the club an amazing sense of immediacy.

The Patio was loud and smoky and rude and raucous. It was the real thing and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.

Best room in the city
By Dale Lawrence

The Patio is quite simply the best room for music in the city — the best sound, the most comfortable, the perfect size — and it’s going to be sorely missed. I’ve had so many good times playing and hanging there over the years, but the ones I remember best might be a time (or two) in the mid ’90s, when the club let the Vulgar Boatmen do a mid-week acoustic series. Every Wednesday we’d drag an overstuffed sofa and an old floor lamp up on stage in a naked attempt to create a living-room ambiance. We’d have one or two special guests each week who’d perform on their own and usually sit in with us besides.

It was super fun to do. I looked forward to it each week. But it also made the idea of an Indianapolis musical community seem a more tangible thing for a while. It wasn’t just a matter of the musical guests, but the audience, too, which tended to be pretty stable.

You got used to seeing the same faces week after week, until they became as much a part of the series as the couch.

It’s a memory I know I’ll keep.

Reeking of smoke
By Marc D. Allan
Contributing writer, NUVO

You always left the Patio knowing what a cigarette filter must feel like. You’d go home reeking of smoke, your ears ringing. And you’d be exhausted, because if you sat down you couldn’t see and nothing worth seeing ever ended before 1 a.m., even on weeknights.

Geez, I miss those days.

In the eight years I covered music for The Indianapolis Star (1990-’98), I spent probably a hundred nights at 6308 Guilford Ave. and rarely went home disappointed. Guided by Voices, John Cale, Son Volt, Uncle Green, John Doe, the Vulgar Boatmen, the Lovemeknots, Mikes House, many nights of Rock the Ripple. So many other shows, it’s hard to remember.

If you love live music, the Patio was a great place to go. You were never more than 20 or so paces from the stage, which was all of a foot off the ground. If you wanted to talk to the bands, you talked to the bands. They didn’t really have a choice — they had to walk around the audience to get to what passed for a dressing room.

I don’t want to go overboard romanticizing the Patio because, really, it was just a nondescript, poorly ventilated room. What made the Patio special was that it gave local bands and small national acts a place to play. Spaces like that were and still are scarce in Indianapolis because there’s much more money to be made booking cover bands and DJs playing recorded music.

In the old days, I would have been outraged at the news that the Patio was closing and railed about losing a place so vital to the local music scene. But frankly, I hadn’t been there in years (I aged out), and the Patio is a business that, like all businesses, needs customers to survive. I know I should have gone to see The Gore Gore Girls a couple of weeks ago, but, you know, life got in the way.

So I can’t be angry. And I’m not. I’m comforted knowing that places like Birdy’s have come along to pick up where the Patio left off.

But I’m sad, too, because Indianapolis just lost a little of its pop-culture history.

Under-aged at the Patio
By Mary Lee Pappas
Contributing writer, NUVO

It freaks me out that it’s been 18 years since I was a regular under-ager at the Patio. I wasn’t a delinquent (nothing scandalous here — these were pre-Bridge-Kid days), but simply a neighborhood kid and a senior at Broad Ripple. OK … I worked at a clothing boutique that was frequented by acts that came to the Vogue and the Patio, so I got on guest lists and went to shows on school nights. And, OK … I also was a concert photojournalist for a European paper by luck of an exchange student who wrote its music column. The Patio had to let me in, but they were doing that anyway.

I was shocked later when, at 21, someone there wanted to see my ID.

Another under-ager was one of my best pals and classmates — Russell Johnson of the Mudkids, aka “The King of Broad Ripple.” My best memories of the Patio are from Birdmen of Alcatraz shows with Russell fronting years after high school. My worst Patio memory (I’m pretty sure it was 1987) was staring at the marquee from Guilford on my way to Café Expresso after school. It read, “Red Hot Chili Peppers.” I was bummed I couldn’t get to the show. I had a test the next day.

As I hit my early 20s in the early ’90s, Broad Ripple started to bustle more, and I was chasing a career and developing a physical aversion to cigarette smoke. I’ve hardly gone to the Patio, let alone BR on a weekend night, in the last 10 years though I still live in the same place. I went to one of their annual Christmas parties a few years back out of curiosity because I didn’t know what the heck it was. I’ve given up my sentimental attachments to places formerly held sacred.

Things change and life goes on. The Monon Trail has replaced the poetry-riddled trestle, homes have become rentals, woods have been obliterated for Tyvek and plywood-bound condos, shops are pushed out by high rents and liquor licenses. So be it, even with barf on the sidewalks. Nevertheless, I popped into the Patio one night last year to hear The Slurs.

Nothing has sounded so good … since 1987.

Bringing home the band
By Jim Poyser
Managing editor, NUVO

A common predicament for me is finding myself at a show and no one is dancing. Should I just venture forth and start, hoping that my actions “break the ice”? Or, does one lone man dancing hobbledehoy-ly around the dance floor prevent even the slightest possibility of others joining?

I’ve tried it both ways over the years — especially at the Patio — and all options have played out:

I dance, nobody ever follows, it gets weird.

I dance, others join, dance party happens.

I don’t dance and others start — then I get to join.

I don’t dance, nobody dances, band gets depressed.

Great dance parties did happen — particularly during the period when The Royal Crescent Mob, from Dayton, was coming through town. They were a wild bunch of funked-up fellows who always got the crowd moving. On nights like that I left my car in Broad Ripple and walked home to 50th and Pennsylvania.

Great walks. Right down the center of Central or Washington or Pennsylvania, 2 a.m., no cars anywhere, that end-of-the-world feeling. Or, the alternate route I discovered one night, a path I called Wilderness Alley. It was the Land that Time Forgot; passage was akin to thrashing through an old growth forest — a fitting end to a fine night of music.

At one point, near the mid ’90s, I began inviting beloved bands home. The Royal Crescent Mob never took me up on it, though one night they promised they would. I stayed up for an hour, waiting like a spurned lover. Same with The Drovers; promised they’d show but didn’t. Wise on their parts, I guess: I could have been an ax murderer.

One band that did come home with me was Tiny Lights. I loved this six-person hippie classical rock band — saw them a handful of times before they disappeared.

My wife, who was about eight months pregnant at the time, wasn’t exactly ecstatic when I woke her.

“Honey,” I whispered, “I brought home the band.”

“Again?” she responded, then went back to sleep.

Tiny Lights and I stayed up late, discussing the harmonic resonance of the universe and other issues. They were grateful to have a place to crash, instead of maybe crashing in their van if they’d driven that night to their next gig.

I invited bands home out of sympathy, but I also brought them home because if they were good, I couldn’t get enough. More times than not, that’s what the Patio did; gave you enough, you hungered for more.

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