My favorite place is in Athens wasn’t built by the university. It isn’t fiscally supported by the student activity fee, it isn’t on campus, and it isn’t even on Court Street. Probably about 99% of the student population doesn’t even know my favorite place exists.
It’s called the Hardcore House of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
I know it sounds absurd, a hardcore house named after an 83-year-old Supreme Court Justice? It probably will more sound more absurd to you when you discover it is my own personal rental home off-campus. In addition to being the place I sleep, shower, do homework, and prepare my meals, it’s also a performance space for poets and artists from Athens, OH to Alabama to Brooklyn and more.
I probably should walk you through how I got here, seeing as you’re thinking about coming to Ohio University or have already enrolled, and I’m telling you that my favorite thing about OU isn’t even mildly campus affiliated.
When I arrived as a freshman, I was eager for something new. Laid at my feet was a fresh start, but I wanted to use my fresh start to experience the things I loved already in a new way. Music was a primary passion of mine, and I was already five+ years deep into a devoted relationship with DIY music, as I’d been playing and booking shows all through high school. I knew a little bit about Athens music scene through creeping the Athens, OH tag on Bandcamp, but I became fully immersed in it once I joined ACRN Media, OU’s student-run college rock radio station and media collective. The group of us headed out in droves to catch shows in living rooms, at bars, and in basements.
(Full disclosure, I became the General Manager aka head honcho of ACRN Media February of my freshman year, 3/4 because I am incredibly passionate about radio, 1/4 because I am an insane person who loves having no free time or sleeping.)
DIY and ACRN provided a space away from the sporty party culture that bombarded me when I first moved in. I lived on West Green, a hub for student athletes, and I often found myself feeling a little isolated. A place to feel less isolated was surrounded by push moshing sweaty bodies in the basement of Castle Genesee. Standing on the sliver
of counter to watch bands in the kitchen of the Wolf Haus. Peering through the stair banisters to watch folks rip gigs at the Lodge. All of these house venues became transient homes.
The Lodge was especially important, as the people who lived there became our fast friends. While we went to lots of shows there, it became a destination on event-free week nights. My partner and I would trek over to the house with fresh groceries to make family dinners, and we’d all sit around and listen to music and laugh in good company. There was a family aspect, a community feeling that I really loved. I tucked that feeling in my pocket and saved it for later when the tenants all graduated and moved and the Lodge was no more.
It took me a long time to admit it, but the first two years of Athens DIY were a little frustrating for me, as many people around me were deeply focused on partying, and it got old quick. I got sick of watching people drunkenly disrespect each other’s personal space and safety, houses were getting trashed, things were getting stolen. It was a mess. I was drowning in an environment surrounded by peers who did not understand what it was like to work 25 hours a week while being a full-time student, who could bring six-packs of craft beer to a gig but not $5 to donate to the bands performing. I was getting burnt out on the one thing that made Ohio U feel like a place of adventure and promise, and I needed to do something about it.
(Reality Check: While everyone talks about the Bobcat Family and how they never want to leave OU, it is OKAY to feel unhappy here. There’s may be occasional moments where you just don’t know if you made the right decision or you are itching to graduate and move on to the next thing. This is normal, okay, and presents a chance to do something creative with your time here!)
It was at this time when I had reached my breaking point that we began planning for our move to the RBG. We had plans to have shows, but we started talking logistics, ideals, visions. The name came about because I’m obsessed with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and I think she’s a bad ass. The hardcore edge came about because we liked hardcore music, but we also thought it would be funny to pair the two. Our logo represents the absurdity of such a name.
One thing that we all deeply cared about was having a strict “No drugs, no drinking, no exceptions” policy during gigs. We wanted the place to be as safe as possible for everyone, and any space that includes alcohol or drugs immediately becomes less safe. An unfortunate thing you’ll learn very quickly at OU that alcohol and drugs often reveal the nastier, scummier side of people, even within ‘alternative’ communities.
Grumpy jaded senior-citizen Meg comments aside, we really did want to create a space that was safe and intended to create community. I wanted to be somebody else’s Lodge. When we moved in and started facilitating performances, we were excited to see droves of kids coming to shows to hang out and make friends. I was starting to see students and community members I hadn’t known before, we were inviting poets to perform which brought in a fresh crowd of people to shows, and our home became synonymous with welcoming. We kicked off the year with a mixed CD/mix tape swap, and new Rock Lobsters crowded the floor and porch to share music. Bands started practicing at our house, we hosted shows for other people, we made friends, we gave people a place to go, and I think people have fun when they visit the RBG.
Booking shows and facilitating community events without ever having to leave my home gave me a sense of purpose and a positive space to grow. My confidence in the OU/Athens community restored itself, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people. It’s also something really cool and interesting to slap on a resume– “Events Coordinator at the Hardcore House of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” is sure to catch an employer’s eye! But let’s get real. I haven’t created this space and formed a sisterhood and music family just for resume-building purposes. The RBG was born because I needed it to exist in order to feel truly fulfilled in Athens.
Flyers from shows at the xxxRBGxxx:
Here’s the moral of my long-winded journey and this e-scrapbook of memories. If you arrive at OU or are planning on coming here and can’t quite figure out what you want or what you like or what feels like home, try not to worry. There is nothing stopping you from being the creator of the space that meets your needs, accomplishes your goals, and brings you bliss. Athens and Ohio University are your canvas, so get ready to create. Your space may not exist yet, and that’s a-okay! If you can’t find your space, make it.