Setting the record straight
A lot of people were surprised last week when rumors about Rouge’s closing started circulating. After less than a year, Rouge, the club that replaced Broad Ripple’s legendary Patio, found itself floundering and eventually shutting its doors for good.
But a familiar name in the Indy music scene has stepped forward with hopes of a suitable and sustainable replacement. Spin, which officially opened last Friday night, is taking Rouge’s place and plans to give musicians and music fans a new place to dance, drink, rock and roll.
Todd Johnson is the owner/operator/manager of Spin. He’ll serve drinks, mop floors and check ID, but deciding what happens to the bands and shows scheduled before Rouge closed is out of his hands. It’s a situation Johnson regrets, and one that has spawned a lot of rumors. Johnson wants to set the record straight.
“I wasn’t given the opportunity to keep bands,” he says, looking around the club. It’s Thursday evening and Johnson’s been here since 9 a.m. — with doors unlocked. He’s preparing for a casual Friday opening as well as giving people the opportunity to stop by. “My phone hasn’t rung all day,” Johnson says, referring to the bands that were scheduled by the former Rouge owners.
Scheduling problems were a major issue for Rouge owner Dave Lee, who also owns Naked Chopstix on College. “The manager did most of our hiring,” Lee says. He says the relationship between booking agents and managers seemed exclusive. “I was never told anything,” he says. Therefore, Lee claims he didn’t have the opportunity to keep Spin from losing bands.
“I’m sick I lost Mr. Sparkle,” says Johnson of the show scheduled for Oct. 27. However, Johnson has retained a few bands like The Elms, Stereo Deluxe and Aether Law through valiant campaigning on Myspace and IndianapolisMusic.net and he’s working to make contact with other artists.
“I never received any word from Rouge,” says Jay Elliott, guitarist and vocalist of Stereo Deluxe. “I fell prey to the sewing circle on IndianapolisMusic.net and assumed our gig was canceled.” Elliott says Johnson worked hard to make contact and asked the band to keep their show on Nov. 22.
Some former Rouge employees say ownership switched on short notice. Therefore it was assumed all band dates were canceled. Johnson agrees the purchase happened quickly. “I just signed the check today,” Johnson says. Johnson understands how quickly false rumors spread, putting all employees, old and new, in difficult situations. “I didn’t come out publicly until yesterday,” Johnson says. “But people have been talking for days.” While Johnson most likely can’t keep all of Rouge’s bands, he wants the chance.
The name Spin not only comes from the club’s live DJs, (vinyl by the way), but the idea that Johnson wants to put a new “spin” on the city. “We’re introducing this as a hybrid bar,” Johnson says. He shrugs. “I’ve been in this business for 10 years. I understand there are purists who’d want this establishment to be one thing or the other.” Currently, he plans to have live music on Wednesdays and Thursday, but if there is enough of a response, he’ll go live Wednesday through Saturday.
Until Spin achieves a four-night lineup, he’ll implement an aggressive promotion plan for Wednesday and Thursday live performances. He says before now, there hasn’t been enough advertising for featured bands.
Johnson grabs a printed e-mail from Russ Johnson, member of Indy’s well-known hip-hop group Mudkids. “Russ sent this today. He’s been nothing but supportive. We’ve known each other for a while and he’s excited about what I can do with this place.” He says Russ offers his talents not only as an MC, but also as a DJ.
In the meantime, a few bands are set to play. Aether Law will be at Spin Oct. 28 and Stereo Deluxe Nov. 22. “If this place doesn’t go, I won’t compromise it, I’ll sell,” Johnson says. “But I think people will see where it’s going.” It may not be the Patio, but perhaps parts of this historic Mecca, as Johnson puts it, will be revived.
Oh yeah, and PBR is back.