All you really need to know about the long history
of the community hub known as the Melody Inn can be summed up by a
couple of photos someone recently showed to owners Dave Brown and Rob
"We had a guy come in from a local band
recently who had told his grandfather he was going to play the Mel,"
Brown says. "It turns out his grandpa used to mop the floors
back in the 1940s, so he gave him some photos from that time. Turns
out it was a real swanky joint back then!"
The punchline may be that the Mel is now your
classic hole-in-the-wall, but the most fascinating thing about the
photos of a brand-spankin'-new speakeasy with immaculately laid out
tables and metalwork is what hasn't changed. The floor is the same,
as is the tile, the distinctive big mirror in the back - even the
In that time it's gone through only six owners.
Ten years ago this week, Brown and Ondrish took over with a month's
rent paid, eleven bucks in the till and no clue if their new venture
would live past the first thirty days. Things seem to have turned out
"Ten years is a lifetime in the bar
business," Ondrish says.
They're pulling out all the metaphorical stops to
commemorate the event, with a five-day concert series covering
everything from original rock to DJs to punk rock, with long slate of
performers every night.
"We wanted to really support local live
musicians, and as it turns out, a lot more places are doing that now
than there were 10 years ago," Brown says. "It's kind of
neat to hear when people tell us they came here and used the Melody
Inn as a template for their own approach to live music."
"We've always tried to treat the bands really
well, but to be honest, we didn't even know we were treating that
well," Ondrish says. "We were just being decent. But a lot
of these places out there, you hear stories of shady bar guys, never
getting paid, gear getting stolen. We've always taken the road bands
The Mel's diverse crowd comes from all walks of
life - everything from the Punk Rock Night gang that's been in
place from the beginning of the Brown/Ondrish era, to businessmen
dropping by, to old couples who remember courting each other and
falling in love here decades ago.
"This place has always defied categorization;
you can some in here and see any kind of people," Ondrish says.
"We're in a situation where people from a lot of scenes can feel
comfortable calling this place home. It cross-pollinates; we'll have
kids who come in on electronic night who end up coming by for Punk
Rock Night. We do all kinds of music all the time. If you like music
of any sort and you're not a snob, you'll be able to have a good
That very sense of family has contributed to the
stability of the place after all these years, and helps maintain
order even when more than 100 punks fill the place on a Saturday
night, spread out over two different rooms and an outdoor beer
"People look out for this bar and each other,
and that's really amazing," Brown says. "They respect the
place and the atmosphere. If someone's acting stupid, we can say to
their buddy, 'Hey, your bud is being a real jerk.' If you can't get
your shit together here of all places, there's no hope for you!"
Ondrish's fiance Nikol Prieto is assembling a
video of longtime fans sharing their own memories of the place. "I'm
amazed at how many hookups and marriages we've gotten over the
years!" she says. "So many people feel like this place is
home to them."
"People don't just wander in; this is a
destination," Brown says. "People know why they're coming
here, which helps weed out a lot of bad people. It's a family vibe
"I guarantee we have less bar fights than
anywhere in Broad Ripple," Ondrish adds. "When someone
comes out here that's an asshole, they stand out like a sore thumb."
For their own part, Ondrish and Brown say they're
happy for everyone who's helped bring the bar to this point.
"We're thankful for all the bands that have
played here, all the promoters, all the DJs and all the fans that
have come out to support it," Brown says. "We wouldn't be
here without the help of all those people. We always hope people will
continue to come and support the bands we have on tour, even if
they've never heard of them before. We're so often amazed by an
underground band we've never heard of. You may just be blown away."
Click here for full details on "The Melebration," the Melody's 10-year-anniversary extravaganza.