Congratulations to Kathy Simkoff (pictured above with Biblical Proof Of UFOs’ Mike Peffer and Ray Piller countin’ the loot in a wonderful Karen Novak candid photo) and everyone at the Grog Shop on the major milestone—thirty successful, jam-packed years as a concert club in the music-mad capitol of Rock ‘N Roll: Cleveland, Ohio!
This post is a seriously weird-ass grab bag of photos 1) from the 1990s courtesy of the U.S. Rocker Archive that have never been published before (I need help with dates and names/credits on many of them), and 2) pics I snapped around Y2K and the early Oughties, which you can click on and read some amusing anecdotes I’ve posted retrospectively over the past year.
Note: Kathy and the Grog were big-time supporters of our music magazine U.S. Rocker, and we covered the venue’s bookings in every issue.
It’s impractical to link to each classic Grog Shop photo, band profile or concert review in this post. But no worries—they’re all online for you:
In August 1992 I moved to 2620 Mayfield Road and, boom! At almost exactly that same time the Grog Shop opened. It was the closest bar to my place. I was finally legal to drink. Naturally, I became a Grog Shop regular from the start.
The Grog Shop, thanks to Kathy and everyone there who’s put in the hard work over the years, is now a well-known and loved establishment. But in the beginning—and I feel like maybe this has been lost in the sands of time—the Grog was a serious against-the-odds story.
Cleveland was a tribal kind of place in 1992. That’s how it felt to me at least.
Everyone had their favorite venue back in the day. Each venue had certain kinds of bands and audiences that they serviced—they rarely mixed genres. Everything was very set in stone. And here comes this new upstart, the Grog Shop, mixing things up.
What an incredible gift the Grog was to young folks like me in 1992. It was a pleasure to hang out there because Kathy ‘got it.’ The future was going to be a hybrid.
The original Grog Shop at the corner over Coventry and Mayfield Rd. shook up the humdrum pattern the Cleveland music scene had settled into. From the start these young That Place On Bellflower refugees—Kathy and the late great Matt Mugridge—shook the prevailing musical genres in a cocktail shaker, and poured us all a delicious new mix of Grunge, Noise Rock, Punk, Hip Hop, Hippie Rock, jam bands… you name it.
The Grog Shop was all very ’90s and casual. It was the slacker bar for my Generation X pals and I. We watched new episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 there and ate 10¢ wings after work. There was indoor smoking (sounds gross now but what a bonus—thanks for all the Camel Cash!). Shots with Matt at the bar. It was our spot. Home sweet away-from-home.
U.S. Rocker writer, roommate and dear friend Mason “Jar” Boor remembers:
I can’t count how many times I “accidentally” missed the bus stop near our place and rode on down to Coventry to depart directly into the Grog to have a few right after work. So many great memories. We were so lucky to have them right down the street. At least for a few awesome years. I got to see so many of my “Heroes” there: J. Mascis, The Flaming Lips, Moonshake, Mercury Rev, Damon & Naomi, Mike Watt, The Meat Puppets and even Bob Mould and Grant Hart (RIP) of Husker Du doing solo sets. Not to mention the usual gang of noise bands… Ed Hall, Zeni Geva, Ruins, Today is the Day, Unsane, Polvo, Mule, Don Caballero.. plus plenty helpings of Craw, Biblical Proof of UFOs, Boulder, Shielbound, DuValby Brothers, Gem, Ditch and of course.. those most excellent Karma to Burn nights. Oh and a pretty rocking new band called Mastodon.
Matt Mugridge drifted away which was a sad change to deal with, but Kathy ramped up what the Grog was doing—booking absolutely excellent music regardless of meagre (or mega) draw—and things just got better and better over the years.
Kathy even took a chance on me as a poster artist for a few shows. I was no Clay Parker (U.S. Rocker cover artist who did the original Grog mural) nor was I to be the next Derek Hess (Euclid Tavern booker, iconic U.S. Rocker artist).
In fact I think only this Dick Dale poster I did survives. I found my voice later on but I still appreciate the support Kathy and the Grog gave me.
I’ve posted some funny Grog Shop stories about touring the Westside to the Eastside, releasing a gazillion crickets in the bar (and no one noticed), hosting a Festival of Seans and more. Scroll to the color photos below / click on the camera icons to see and read more.
Shortly after I left Cleveland twenty years ago, the Grog Shop moved—oh no! But the new location, where the old Arabica and that wine bar were (we used to hang with Kathy at that wine bar on Sunday nights which may have been her off-night in the early days? or maybe pre-Grog days?) at the corner of Coventry and Euclid Heights Blvd. was an even better location for the venue.
I’ve only experienced the ‘new’ Grog (now 20 years old, ten years more-established than the ‘classic’ location) once—for the Craw reunion extravaganza a few years back. I had an excellent time.
I hope all of you Clevelanders and Grog Shop fans had a great time enjoying the anniversary concerts. Wish I could have been there with you.
Thank you, Kathy, once again—eternally!—for supporting U.S. Rocker, our music and all our weirdo ambitions. Here’s to thirty more…
Check out these never-published photos:
3.12.96 – Boulder, Buzzoven & Sour VeinU.S. Rocker’s Darren Irwin wrote at the time that Boulder so “impressed the lead singer of Buzzoven, who dedicated their set to Boulder: ‘The best fuckin’ band who opened for us on tour’ was stated more than once—and rightly so…”
7.8.98 – Bardo Pond, Speaker / Cranker & Phoebe Cates
U.S. Rocker’s Ryan Smith wrote at the time that Bardo Pond’s music “is so beautiful it hurts to listen too closely.”
Date unknown – Cash Money (aka Cash Audio) & friends
Apparently we at U.S. Rocker let this review slide, which is probably why we never published these photos of a typical warm, cozy, friend- and music-filled night at the Grog.
Date unknown – Shiner
Same deal as above–we must not have had a reviewer at this one, but we have some great photos.
Inspired by classic Black Flag tour booking strategies, I organized a tour of three of the best Westside bands to the Eastside. First—and last!—stop? The Grog Shop, of course!
We were like King Crimson for latchkey kids. Yes for thrash addicts. Lots of wonderful friends showed up for this farewell gig. Were you there?
It was the first and only “Festival of Seans,” aka “Sean-O-Rama,” and it starred some future mega stars including a Black Key and Har Mar Superstar.
I wish I could remember more details about this show (perhaps you do?). I blame the weed we smoked on Coventry just prior to the gig!
Classic night! Here are three of the best thrash / hardcore bands of all-time, laying it down onstage. Heavy. Fierce. Punishing.
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