Entertainment » A&E Feature

Ode to Vino’s

Like all 18-year-olds, it’s grown up — but not.


CURRENT INCARNATION: Vino's since 1990.
  • CURRENT INCARNATION: Vino's since 1990.

Vino's 18th

8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, $6.

With King Don, the Reds, Loch Ness Monster, Gino Delray and Underclaire.


I missed out on Mandrake's and DMZ, the venues that occupied what became Vino's. But as a youngster in the '80s, the aging two-story building on the corner of Seventh and Chester had a strange appeal. I remember driving past it with my family, most likely en route to church, seeing the blacked out windows and flyers stuck to the door. I felt like I was missing something mysterious behind that storefront. I didn't get it, and at that age, I very much wanted to get things.

I was there, however, a few years later for the inception of Vino's in 1990. I was 16 and the venue quickly became an unwitting and unwilling participant to all that comes with testing out adulthood. It could have been anywhere, the places we go to try out a different identity from the one we grew up with. For some it's a movie theatre, others it's a parking lot, a clearing in the woods, a water tower. For me it was Vino's.

The new venue had inherited the mystique of its forbears, but it also came with the wholesome-izing addition of a restaurant with actual food (food being the great divider between shady dive and reputable place of teen-age congregation). It was about a third of its current size, and what are now broom closets were tiny, cramped restrooms. There was no deck, no brewery, no non-smoking area, just one long corridor that terminated at the back of the stage. The chairs — well the chairs are probably still the same chairs.

Today, the kids look pretty slick. It looks like they put some work or, God forbid, money into their hair. The style is pretty different from the glorified filth of my youth culture, but in so many ways, it's exactly the same. Phillip K. Dick had a theory that we were living in all eras of history at once, the 1970s, the Roman Empire, all transposed over each other. P.K. Dick was also blown out on so much speed he thought alien entities were contacting him, but he had a point. Sitting at a table in Vino's and watching the laughing and scowling parade of kids and musicians stream in and out of the performance area is a lot like watching myself at that age. The beginning of Vino's, the current Vino's, all existing simultaneously outside of time. Or at least that sounds better to me than some sentimental screed about how great it was back “in the day.” Because it's always “the day” for some rock 'n' roll kid getting dropped off by his parents to go to the show, meet up with friends and get into some minor mayhem.

Over the years, I have been the customer, the cook, the drunk guy who is starting to become a problem, the dishwasher, the kid arguing with his girlfriend on the phone, the server, the band, the vandal, the bartender. That's a social studies degree. Better yet, a college degree from an institute of social learning, transformation and experimentation. Given how much time and money I've spent over the last 18 years, that must make me tenured faculty, right?


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