At Jeb Banner’s cool-as-hell Musical Family Tree show at the Patio a couple of weeks ago, my buddy Otis Gibbs (for whom, among others, I have the privilege of playing lead guitar over the years — including the big farewell this coming Saturday) turned to me and announced, “I added it up and our next gig here will be my 107th. You’ve got to be well over 200.”
This stunned me. Is it possible? Have I really played 200 gigs in this one, seminal, smoky bar? I’m not so sure, myself, but it’s not out of the question and I know better than to question Otis. I’m soon to be 40 and have been playing guitar there in various musical incarnations since 1985, so I guess 10 gigs a year isn’t out of the question. But, still ...
So there we were, Otis and me and a hundred or so others, all swaying in bittersweet time to the strains of Vess Ruhtenberg and United States Three, who, along with a few other bands, had convened for this gig. The vibe was decidedly weighty with a good kind of nostalgia, like a family dinner at the holidays, only with the old homestead set to face the metaphorical wrecking ball in, say, two weeks. The mood of this trip-down-memory-lane bill, which also featured The Gizmos, Indiana’s first punk rock band, was set in stone a couple of weeks back when word spread like wildfire through The Village that the Patio would be closing its doors after nearly 40 years to make way for a new bar with an entirely different format.
I’ll never forget the memories I’ve accumulated in that sticky, smoky place over the years. Playing Psychedelic Furs covers as a trembling teen-ager on that most (OK, second to the Vogue, but that came soon enough) hallowed stage with my post-high school band, The Animal Kingdom. Becoming the de facto house lighting director and illuminating such bands as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Meat Puppets, The Dead Milkmen, The Replacements, Robyn Hitchcock, et al.
Later, I got to enjoy the incomparable rush of playing with my band in the late ’80s/early ’90s, Mere Mortals, to an audience of over 600 people in one night in a room that was built to hold maybe 150. There was the night that the BoDeans stopped in and ended up on stage with us playing Lou Reed and Neil Young songs until after 3:30 a.m.
Better still has been the experience of watching bands like The Mysteries of Life, Old Pike, The Vulgar Boatmen and, more recently, Otis Gibbs, Rhymefest and Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s rise up from humble origins and achieve much-deserved recognition and success (or at least the promise thereof) on a national stage.
In kind of an ironic twist, nowadays I make my living as a retail real estate broker, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I heard that the Patio owner Steve Ross had leased his building out to another party. I knew the Patio’s days were numbered years ago when a client asked me to research it as a possible site for The Gap. Really. Everything — music, fashion and, yes, commerce — has a life cycle, and the Patio’s has come to its logical conclusion.
The great news is that water seeks its own level and Indianapolis’ great and noble music scene will figure out a way to make its way back into our lives. We may have to dig a bit deeper or drive a bit farther than we’re used to, but we’ll get used to it. And, hopefully, Vess will still stop by sometimes and play “She’s The Word.”