It takes a special kind of person to quiet down the Melody Inn. But when Justin Allen led a tribute to the late local stalwart Steve Pratt from the Mel’s stage Monday night, the crowd was as silent as it has ever been.
Pratt died July 3 in Fullerton, California, in an altercation in a rehearsal studio. The details remain under investigation; friends and family gathered for a quickly arranged wake at the Melody Inn Monday night, still stunned, still in a state of shock.
Though he died in California, Pratt’s heart and musical family rested in Indianapolis. To list the bands Steve Pratt played in is to recount the soundtrack of the aughts. Drunko. Hot Damn! The Mighty John Waynes. The Retreads ... going all the way back to Poison Center in 1982. He was an integral part of the music scene of this city for the past 25 years, most particularly the last decade. He played a big role, along with Greg Brenner, in getting regular punk rock shows started at the Melody Inn, resulting in one of the longest-running weekly events the city has ever known.
His former bandmate Jason Cavan of Drunko remembers meeting him when they both lived in Brenner’s place for a while more than a decade ago.
“We were snowed in one winter night at Brenner’s place, and we were like 'We’ve got beer, we’ve got instruments, let’s start a band,” Cavan says. “There you go. You have Drunko.”
When the Mighty John Waynes broke up in 2002, they played a raucous, manic final show at the Melody Inn that drew so many city luminaries it was like a joint session of the Indianapolis Music Congress. Former MJW drummer Kyle Campbell shared duties on the skins with Pratt that night, and he inscribed these words on the busted guitar that still rests in a place of honor over the Mel’s bar: “Here’s to years, cheers, beers and tears.”
And indeed, as with any good wake, with the tears came laughter. “He’s probably up there laughing at all of us motherfuckers for telling all these stories!” Allen said at one point.“Half of which he was too drunk to remember!” someone responds from the crowd.
A smattering of encomiums:
“I appreciate all the times I was grounded because of Steve Pratt!”
“He showed up when my baby was born and brought a flash of whiskey! I told him, ' I love you for coming, but you are not getting my man drunk today.”
“I bit his third nipple!” (No verification as to whether this is true.) Allen invited Melody Inn honcho Dave Brown to the stage, but he demurred: “I wasn’t really prepared for this.”“None of us were,” someone in the crowd murmured.