Punk, funk and everything in between. A journey into the Athens, OH music scene.

By Haadiza Ogwude

p1030165

Haffa’s Records, a 30-year-old vinyl store and a staple in the Athen’s music community.

Located in the southeastern town of Athens, OH exists a thriving underground music scene where genres from across the spectrum are welcomed. From touring alternative bands, to local Pink Floyd tribute acts, there is no shortage of interesting music in this small town. With the collaboration of the Do It Yourself music community, the All Campus Radio Network, Haffa’s Records and more the music scene continues to be a prominent entity in the Athens’ community.

Want to know more about this independent music scene? Check out the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxbRTnV9Qa8

 

 

Our parents may be hOUme but that doesn’t mean the parties will stop

Ohio University knows how to party so well parents don’t know if they should be mad or not. This weekend was filled with live music, dancing, and regrettable decisions for some.

  1. The Union sets the tone for this fun, music filled weekend.

Adam Remnant, Breakers, Smizmar

Friday, 23 September 2016 9:00 pm

@ The Union

Creator: The Union

 

Adam Remnant is a local folk artist on tour for his recently released EP, When I Was a Boy. He was the headline act for the show at The Union Bar & Grill. Breakers, and Smizmar shared the stage with Remnant Friday night. The show was an example of not only how good the music in Athens is, but also how there’s no typical “Athens band”.

2. Open Doors Casa Dance Party

The party is slayin' with DJ vampy kitty!!! @vampykitty @ouopendoors @casanuevaathens

A photo posted by Ohio University LGBT Center (@oulgbtcenter) on

Open Doors, an LGBT student group on campus hosted their first dance of the school year with a stoplight theme dance party. The dress code for the party was simple but interesting. Everyone was to wear stoplight colors but they each meant different things. If you wore green, you were single and ready to mingle for the night while red meant you were off the market or weren’t interested.

Saturday night was also DJ Vamptykitty’s first solo act.

3. Country Night Lights 

 

Hundreds of people gathered at The Venue of Athens this past weekend to enjoy two booze filled days of country music in their cowboy boots. Two days of up-and-coming musicians entertained this rowdy crowd. The bars weren’t going to pass up on an opportunity to offer a place to pregame before pregaming outside the venue.

4. Skeletonwitch returns to Athens

Athens, thank you for a killer, sold-out show last night. There is no better way to start a tour.

A photo posted by @skeletonwitch on

Skeletonwitch returns to Athens and play their show back at The Union Bar & Grill a year after it burned down. The Union was where former OU students began playing before gaining an international following in the metal scene. This show kicked off their five-week Curse of the Dead 2016 U.S. tour.

5. No matter what happened to you this weekend just be glad you didn’t end your weekend this way.

Everyone is told from day one to be very careful around the horse officers. After a night of drinking this man seems to have forgotten the sacred rule in Athens–always ask before petting a horse.

He took it a step further by actually mounting the horse when he saw there was no police around. Though no records have been found as of yet online his friends say he was arrested but is free and will have a trial on Monday.

 

You can be grateful you woke up this morning with just a simple headache.

Back from the ashes the Union open again

     Resurrected from that destructive blaze in 2014 the Union has opened its doors again. A landmark of not only the Athens music scene, but that of the greater Ohio area. Inside its walls sits more than a bar, or a venue to see shows, the Union is a place where the people of Athens can come together and enjoy the town’s nightlife.
The Union is one of the few places in Athens that actually hosts live music, and the only place in Athens, that is not university affiliated, that can pull in bigger acts that the others can’t. This led to the Union grabbing some talented acts, some of which eventually move on to preform bigger venues. The Union gives bands a place to show off their talent and bring their music to Athens.
Famous acts like the Black Keys and the White Stripes have played their stage before they got big enough to sell out larger clubs. While they’re able to find some of the acts before they’re too big. While the Union likes to show off the talent they’re able to bring in, the Union is truly a place where anyone who wants to show off their talent can come and perform on decent stage.
On top of their music endeavors the Union will host performance pieces too. The open environment of the Union allowed for many groups to showcase their work without going through the university or leaving the Athens area. The local production of Rocky Horror Picture Show once had a lines around the block until the fire forced the local theater group to move locations.
When the Union caught fire in the early morning of November of 2014, with most of the roof gone with the fire, the situation looked grim for the Union. They weren’t the only ones affected by the fire, being in the middle of the fire’s path which took out several other neighboring businesses, forcing many to relocate and for others to shut down permanently.

A view of West Union today.
A view of West Union today.

     After a lengthy period being closed, the Union is finally back. Walking in it’s hard to tell there was ever a fire there to being with. The bar’s owners took care to not only restore the damage done, but to improve from what they were before, while keeping to their punk rock roots. When the fire took most of their roof, the Union sadly lost most of it’s music equipment to the combined efforts of water, smoke, and fire. However, this gave them the chance to seriously improve the sound quality in the venue upstairs.
The owners of the Union went through great lengths to make a nicer bar, but with the same feeling they had for decades. The Union is more than just a bar or a place to play music, it’s a center point for the local culture of Athens to show itself, while being exposed to acts from around the country. Deep down it’s still the same old bar, just with a much fresher look to it now.

The Union Bar holds a cherished history

A Saturday night in the beloved city of Athens is one of a kind. Whether it be spent with friends at your favorite bar, at the historic Athena, or with a Whitzer in hand, nightlife in Athens draws people together.

But for many, it is The Union Bar and Grille that sets nightlife in Athens apart from the rest – the wooden interior and the resulting aroma, the beloved history of the building itself, the eclectic collection of townies and hipsters resembling townies, and the sense of closeness and acceptance exchanged between bar regulars. It is these things and many, many more that have shaped The Union into what has grown to be so cherished in the hearts of the Athens community.

On November 16th, 2014, news broke of the devastating fire that destroyed several buildings along Union Street at 4 a.m. the day, including the beloved Union Bar and Grill. The Union reached out to the Athens community regarding the news via Facebook.

To the Union extended family, I’m sad to report that early this morning a fire started on our block of Union Street. Though firefighters made heroic efforts to contain the blaze, it quickly spread down the street to us. I currently don’t know the full extent of the damage but it is very extensive. Thankfully no one was injured, but The Union as we knew it is no more. I truly appreciate all the offers of help and warm sentiments. The Union was a second home to so many of us (including myself), it makes my heart ache. As I know more I will try to keep this page updated. Hopefully the place will have a good phoenix story coming soon.

In March of 2015, Athens City council members made the decision to declare the buildings destroyed in the fire a “historic district”.

The charm of the Union Bar and Grille can be attributed to its cherished and diverse history. The building itself has been around since 1900, making it one of the oldest buildings destroyed in the fire. According to Athens News, the building was purchased in 1945 by the father of The Union’s previous, the Couladis brothers. Before Mr. Couladis purchased the building, it was home to a variety of businesses, includingThe Elk Hotel and a bar/restaurant called The Hot Dog.

In 1924, according to Athens Messenger, it was converted into a residence hall for Ohio University students. Eric Gunn, current owner of The Union Bar and Grill told Athens Messenger, “Around the 1960s, upstairs became what it is now. Downstairs has pretty much stayed the same up until the remodel in 2008.”

To current residents of Athens, The Union Bar and Grille was known for its music scene. Over the years, The Union has hosted some of the biggest names in music, including The White Stripes and The Black Keys, according to The Athens News. But what sets The Union apart is its loyalty to local musicians. Blond, a “reverb rock” band based in Athens, was the last band to play at The Union before the November 16th fire, according to The Union’s Facebook page.

As far as the rebuilding of the Union, progress has been slow. Several local news affiliates believed the rebuilding process to have been completed by the end of summer 2015, but a portion of W. Union remains blocked off.

What are you favorite memories of The Union Bar and Grill? Let us know!

Campus Sundry’s demise prompts search for Ghosts of Athens

A man once told me I had to stop looking at the past if I ever wanted to get ahead in life. I was in the Campus Sundry, buying God knows what (I’ve been through phases) and watching the 2010 Winter Olympics with the owner, Paul Abraham. I don’t know why I remember that moment so vividly. It was generic advice, admittedly, and there were countless other life lessons I learned from him. The Sundry was where my friends stopped before heading home after a night out partying. He had the cheapest tobacco in town and a friendly dog he called Star.

Abraham died in 2011, and with him The Campus Sundry died too. One of the best parts of the Athens night life is the adventure home, and for me that almost always included a stop at The Sundry. Now it’s gone; Athens has moved on without it and another store is left to deal with my late-night alter-ego.

The empty shell that was once my favorite store was heavily damaged recently in a fire that affected several businesses on Union Street, indefinitely closing another Athens staple: The Union Bar and Grill. It was the place where I had my first … college experience. Now I may never go there again. I could never have imagined this town without those places.

The Union and The Sundry got me thinking. Athens is a historic town with an old and great university. There had to be other places that closed down that defined the Athens experience for past students, only to be replaced with establishments that define mine.

At the top of Morton Hill there used to be an empty building next to the Church of the Good Shepherd. It was boarded up, but it did house a functioning Chase ATM on the side until it was torn down my sophomore year. That building was once known as The Oasis, and it was a deli/convenience store combo that was on campus for over a century.

The Oasis was for many students the same thing that The Sundry was for me, the last stop before home. It suffered a similar fate. With the passing of owner John Farley in 2002, The Oasis was sold to Ohio University, which closed it only four years later. Erin Councilman, a 1999 alumna and former Oasis employee, said the school didn’t want The Oasis to compete with the new Baker University Center.

“There was talk of doing various things with the building,” she said. “My favorite was the organic grocery store. What are students going to do with an on-campus organic grocery store? Then, as I recall, asbestos was found in the attic, and asbestos abatement would have cost much more than the building was worth to save, so we were left with the green space we have today.”

According to Councilman, The Oasis had many different functions over the years.

“The Oasis used to be the Greyhound bus depot in addition to being its wacky little restaurant/snack bar self,” she said. “That made for some god-awful traffic jams on Morton Hill. Before the Oasis was a restaurant, it was a Laundromat and dry cleaner. It was run by the same family, the Farleys. It changed from a cleaning place to a restaurant in the ’60s when kids no longer wore clothes that needed dry cleaning.”

Another place that defined the “Athens experience” for Councilman was a place on Court Street called The Story Shop.

“The place was amazing,” she said. “There were stacks and stacks of books piled clear to the ceiling, and always some friendly foster cats from the Athens County Humane Society to help you make your selection.”

The cats reminded Councilman of home, which is the same feeling I always got when visiting Abraham’s dog at The Sundry.

“As a homesick freshman who missed my cats, I would go in there and look at books and hang out with a cat for hours,” she said.

The owners of The Story Shop retired and moved back to their home state of Indiana, where they still run The Story Shop albeit online. The space it occupied on Court Street became The Import House.

Academics aside, Athens has always been notorious as a party school. Perhaps the most noticeable changes over the years have come to the bar scene. The list of defunct bars in Athens is extensive, and many of them share the same Athens flavor as most of the current establishments.

For instance, Jackie O’s has had a beer on tap called O’Hooley’s Irish Stout. That’s a shout-out to the bar’s former name: O’Hooley’s Irish Pub, which operated similarly to Jackie O’s as a popular local brewpub. Next to O’Hooley’s was a place known as Skipper’s, which also was purchased by Jackie O’s.

A big name in the Athens music scene in the ’70s and early ’80s was a bar called Swanky’s, which hosted Bruce Springsteen the night before he played in Memorial Auditorium during his Born to Run tour. According to Jessica Cyders of the Athens County Historical Society, Swanky’s closed in the early ’80s after the owner, Ivan Faske, was arrested on drug charges. Swanky’s later caught fire, setting an unfortunate trend, and the space is now occupied by CVS Pharmacy.

Many Ohio University students would cherish the opportunity to live in a dorm building with its own bar. Bromley Hall used to have a bar, however that was before the University purchased the building, known as the College Inn at the time. The bar was called The Nickelodeon, but like The Oasis it fell victim to closure after OU purchased it.

One of the more recent changes to the bar scene is the transformation of The Junction. It was still open when I started college and was on the list of bars my friends and I could get into despite being under 21. You could get in there with seemingly any ID card, and I may have even used a jack of spades once. The Junction was known for what was called “Quad-Night,” where they doubled the amount of alcohol in their mixed drinks. That special was apparently started by former XFL president Basil DeVito way back in 1975. The Junction was sold, renovated and renamed The J Bar after it was sold in 2011 to Dave Cornwall.

Perhaps the most notorious of all drink specials in Athens was 25-cent beer night at Hanger-5. The quarter beer was started by owner Bruce Richmond and current Christian Moerlein Brewing Company owner Greg Hardman. On the first night of the special, Hardman claims Hanger-5 sold 60 kegs of beer.

Jerry Schetterer, a 1990 alumnus, said Hanger-5 was an actual hangar at some point, which made it rather large compared to most other bars. However, that didn’t mean that space wasn’t an issue.

“There were nights where you couldn’t move because there were so many people,” he said. “They stated having beer trucks outside because they couldn’t serve everyone at the bar inside.”

Although it was a very popular bar, Schetterer said Hanger-5 had more than just space problems.

“I remember there was some kind of spray insulation on the rafters, and it would occasionally fall into your beer.”

There’s a great website called athensohiobars.com that keeps a list of the defunct bars. Sadly, that list will only get longer. One day, many years from now, another Ohio University student will load up on coffee the same as I did and write a story similar to this one. The only difference will be that it will include my current favorite hangout spots.

 ***

Garrett Austin Greene is a senior studying news and information in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. He hopes to cover news one day, perhaps even internationally. He was raised on a farm in Smithfield, Ohio and he’s addicted to caffeine, sports and the outdoors.

Where would ‘Parks and Recreation’ characters drink?

If there’s one department Court Street is not lacking in, it’s bars. Each has a certain je ne sais quoi. To describe these distinct personalities, let’s turn to the television show “Parks and Recreation.” Specifically, if the show’s main characters were to take a road trip from Pawnee to Athens, where would they hang out?

Ron Swanson

Ron Swanson is not one for social gatherings, especially when it comes to enjoying a drink. So no bar on Court Street is likely to be his cup of tea (or rather, his cup of Lagavulin). Picture this: Ron sitting at the bar, drinking a Scotch (neat) while seven-plus college students invade his space, maybe rub against his face, laugh loudly while trying to get served, and prompt Ron to look extremely displeased. No, Court Street isn’t where this mustached man would spend his time. The best option for Ron would be Zoe on East State Street off Court Street. Zoe is a restaurant first, bar second. Ron would ask for a secluded table, order a large steak (rare), and keep the whisky coming. Court Street and Ron Swanson do not mix.

April Ludgate

A great fit for this dark, twisted woman is the Smiling Skull Saloon. The Skull is dark and full of townies and bikers whom April would love to observe and interact with. The Skull’s West Union Street location is a bit off the beaten path, as is April. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, so avoiding social interaction is easy. You don’t have to worry about peppy, loud college students here. A popular opinion among such students is that the Skull plays host to “weird people” and the name of the bar is often associated with a facial grimace and the phrase, “It’s so creepy!” It is definitely not on a party-hungry student’s list of places to hear the latest sugar-coated teeny-bopper hit. There’s a lot of black clothing, beanies, and you may or may not find discarded extras of drugs on the top of the toilet in the bathroom. The Skull is the perfect place for Ms. Ludgate.

Andy Dwyer

With its hipster vibe and reputation for hosting local bands, The Union Bar and Grill was the best bar for Andy. His band, MouseRat, could have played there and been a huge hit. It would have been a match made in heaven. But unfortunately the November fire derailed this option. (R.I.P. Union. until you rise again). Consequently, some recalculating is needed to determine Andy’s best match. A close second to Union is Casa Nueva Cantina and Restaurant. Casa hosts live bands but in a much calmer environment. It’s the bar to go to to sit back and enjoy your beer with friends and just hang out.

Side note: Andy Dwyer likes to jump out of/over things, so if he is sans band and in that particular mood, then Stephen’s On Court would be the bar for him. Their bottom bar has a window that is known for getting jumped out of. I would be lying if I said I didn’t know this from personal experience.

Tom Haverford

Considering Tom was part-owner of a club called the Snakehole Lounge, Court Street is a fantastic fit for him. There are so many options. But the right combination of sleazy, yet faux-VIP is Courtside Sports Bar. The two bar stations and outside area of Courtside give it that “high-end” feel that’s perfect for Tom. Courtside plays host to Ohio University athletes so there’s a high possibility of running into a campus celebrity. Tom Haverford is all about local celebrities. It’s the perfect opportunity for him to schmooze. Courtside is one of two bars specifically known for being the bar to go to if you’re underage. (The other being The Crystal, which if you go to the bars in general, you are all too aware.) We have now arrived at the sleazy aspect of Courtside. Courtside is no Snakehole Lounge, but it’s a fine substitute for Tom.

Donna Meagle

Donna Meagle is too cool for the bars of Court Street. If we had a cigar and wine club, it would be a match made in heaven. Alas, we are not Pawnee, Indiana, and do not have such an establishment. Donna would treat herself to a more expensive bar like J Bar. The bar itself isn’t particularly any classier than the other bars on Court, but it likes to pretend it is by charging more money for its drinks. It is classier than The Crystal, though. But that’s an easy feat. J Bar also has a very aesthetically-pleasing brick wall on its top floor that is nice for taking pictures against. Donna is all about social media, so some pictures with the brick backdrop would do nicely for looking like she’s in a fancier place than she is. Donna probably would just rent that entire top floor of J Bar, if we’re being real.

Leslie Knope

Leslie Knope loves waffles. Her favorite type of food is breakfast food. “Why would anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?” What goes great with breakfast food? Coffee. What bar has a signature drink that is coffee-based? Tony’s Tavern. Their Hot Nut is a hot shot of coffee and hazelnut liqueur. I’ve never had one myself, and couldn’t bring myself to taste one just for the purpose of this article because I hate both coffee and shots, but I have heard good things, the majority of which come from my roommate, Sarah Bernstein. “You’ve never had a Hot Nut? Are you out of your mind? They’re so good! You’d love them!” Shut up, Sarah. But I can associate a thing or two, and when I think of Leslie Knope, I immediately think of the Hot Nut. There is no other factor in this equation. Leslie Knope would go to Tony’s specifically because of this drink.

Ben Wyatt

Ben is a beer guy, and a bar known for their wide variety of beers is Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery. The bar has 38 beers on draft, so this gives Ben ample opportunity to try a new beer or two because God knows, there has to be a beer out there he enjoys more than Miller Lite. One would hope, anyway. Jackie O’s draws a diverse, friendly crowd that creates a relaxed atmosphere for someone to sit back and enjoy her beer. Jackie O’s also features live bands, but the music is more blues/garage-rock.

Jerry Gergich

Who cares? He’ll ruin everything anyway.

Ann Perkins

Although Ann has had some great character development, a central theme in her life is her dating situation. It always seems to be her storyline. That being so, Ann would go to Broney’s Alumni Grill during one her dating phases because a large portion of its patrons is the older crowd, which is more of Ann’s niche. Single Ann would go to Broney’s to put herself out there, dating-wise. Even Ann in a relationship would go there with her significant other to mingle with other couples in a calmer environment.

Chris Traeger

If you take Chris Traeger to any bar, he will — “literally” — find any way to remain positive. Even if he is taken into The Crystal, where it almost always spells like urine and feces, Chris would spin that situation positively. That’s what he does. He loves positivity. But I won’t use that as a fallback. He still deserves a well-thought-out Court Street bar choice. This beautiful man would fit in well at The C.I. It’s heavily populated by Greeks but in a surprisingly harmonious way that you don’t have to worry about being annoyed. It’s an overall happy atmosphere and even though the bar gets a bit crowded, you only have to dance your way through. Chris Traeger dances a mean jig. Dancing and happiness are two qualities The C.I. and Chris have in common.

 ***

Hannah Haseman is a strategic communications major in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She spends a startling amount of time watching television shows and movies. Her dream job is to critique those in the entertainment industry through reviews or, more specifically, the bulls-eye section of Entertainment Weekly.