Happy 30th! Here’s every Grog Shop photo from my files

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!

Cash Money Cash Audio Grog Shop Cleveland Caroline Eckles Clay Parker John Humphrey

Cash Money on stage, John Humphrey at the mic, Beetle Boron (I think?) listening, Caroline Eckles dancing. Circa 1996? Photo: Karen Novak.

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:

Download U.S. Rocker for free (paper issues till available)

Read about the history of U.S. Rocker here

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.

U.S. Rocker Cleveland Ohio May 1993 Grog Shop ad

The earliest U.S. Rocker Grog Shop ad I could find—proof of the venue’s commitment to musical diversity from the start. Download the issue here.

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.

Read classic Noise Rock Nuggets you won’t find anywhere else

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.

Dick Dale Cowslinger Grog Shop Cleveland

My first attempt at being a poster artist! Not terribly successful, but whatever. Image: Sean Carnage

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).

Get yer Clay Parker U.S. Rocker covers here

Derek Hess & USR were synonymous for many years—check it out!

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 Vein

Boulder Buzzoven Sour Vein Jamie Walters Midnight Grog Shop Cleveland

Boulder, featuring Jamie Walters (lately of Midnight) kicking the pregnant. Photo: Sean Carnage

Boulder Buzzoven Sour Vein Jamie Walters Midnight Grog Shop Cleveland

“So [their] nappy dreads could flow!” with Buzzoven (bonus prize if you recognize the CLE-classic lyrical quote). Photo: Sean Carnage.

U.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…”

Hail Satan / metal rules! Read more of this classic review in U.S. Rocker (downloads are free)

7.8.98 – Bardo Pond, Speaker / Cranker & Phoebe Cates

Bardo Pond Speaker Cranker Phoebe Cates Scott Pickering Grog Shop Cleveland

Too cool for school: Bardo Pond. Photo: Rob Banks.

U.S. Rocker’s Ryan Smith wrote at the time that Bardo Pond’s music “is so beautiful it hurts to listen too closely.”

Read the full review from 1998 & get psycho-delic, man

Date unknown – Cash Money (aka Cash Audio) & friends

Cash Money Cash Audio Grog Shop Cleveland Caroline Eckles Clay Parker John Humphrey

Let the good times roll! Cash Money’s Scott Giampino, Caroline Eckles & is that Clay Parker? And that other dude. And his friend. Man, my memory is shot. Please help? Photo: Karen Novak.

Cash Money Cash Audio Grog Shop Cleveland Caroline Eckles Clay Parker John Humphrey

Caroline, Clay (I think?) & dude. Photo: Karen Novak.

Cash Money Cash Audio Grog Shop Cleveland Caroline Eckles Clay Parker John Humphrey

Mo’ Cash, mo’ Money. Photo: Karen Novak.

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.

Can you help me with details about this show? Email me, please!

Date unknown – Shiner

Shiner Joel Hamilton Glazed Baby Grog Shop Cleveland

Shine(r) on you crazy diamond. Photo: Karen Novak.

Shiner Joel Hamilton Glazed Baby Grog Shop Cleveland

Glazed Baby’s Joel Hamilton taking his new duties in Shiner quite seriously. Photo: Karen Novak.  

Shiner Joel Hamilton Glazed Baby Grog Shop Cleveland

Shiner featuring our old pal, Joel, from Glazed Baby. Photo: Karen Novak.

Same deal as above–we must not have had a reviewer at this one, but we have some great photos.

Can you help me with details about this show? Email me, please

2.8.01 – Oblongata, Razak Solar System & Begit N Frenz

Oblongata Razak Solar System Begit N Frenz Grog Shop Cleveland Sean Carnage

Oblongata’s John Delzoppo & Ben Parks doing their metal best. Photo: Sean Carnage.

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!

Lots of familiar faces here—click to see

3.16.01 – Chargers Street Gang, Razak Solar System & Proletarian Art Threat

Chargers Street Gang Razak Solar System Proletarian Art Threat Grog Shop Cleveland Sean Carnage

Razak Solar System’s final explosion! I have no idea who snapped this photo on my camera…

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?

Out with the old, in with the new at the Grog Shop

3.8.02 – Har Mar Superstar, Churchbuilder (featuring Pat Carney from Black Keys), Sean & Ian 

Har Mar Superstar Churchbuilder Pat Carney Black Keys Sean & Ian Sean Carnage Ian Colbert Grog Shop Cleveland

Ian Colbert & Sean Carnage doing their Sean & Ian thing. Photo: Sarah Wido.

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.

It’s the early Oughties in a nutshell—re-live the magic!

5.4.02 – Fleshies, Begit N Frenz & Bongzilla

Beckett Warren Begit N Frenz Grog Shop Cleveland Shaun Filley Joe Bernard Danny Noonan

Photo: Sean Carnage.

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!

Go ‘Weed Crazy’ with Begit N Frenz

8.9.02 – 9 Shocks Terror, Annihilation Time & Fields Of Fire

9 Shocks Terror Tony Erba Annihilation Time Fields Of Fire Grog Shop Ben Merlis Sean Carnage Cleveland

9 Shocks Terror’s Lean Steve Peffer & Tony Erba at the height of the band’s power. Photo: Sean Carnage.

Classic night! Here are three of the best  thrash / hardcore bands of all-time, laying it down onstage. Heavy. Fierce. Punishing.

See the photos & read the tour diary—Cleveland from an L.A,. perspective!

Get more Cleveland Carnage:

RIP Pat: Here’s every Pat’s in the Flats photo from the U.S. Rocker archive

Here’s my entire collection of Speak In Tongues photos, clippings & stories

“Trying to convey an acid trip with mere words”: Speak In Tongues lives again in a wild new book

Duvalby Brothers singer Buzz Boron has left us a legacy of incredible music

I skipped the last Nirvana show to book my first concert—here are the recordings!

Capturing the Cleveland scene: An interview with Ryedood

Vince Deliberato’s SUB-CLE is a Cleveland-centric podcast for music & culture fanatics

Listen: No Wave icon Lydia Lunch & Sean Carnage talk music, sex and life on the underground scene

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