Dan Dougan at Little Brother's in 2007
In the two-plus years since Little Brother's closed, Dan Dougan, the man who ran the Short North music hub and its North Campus forebear, Stache's, has kept a low profile. Now he's easing back into the public eye.
Dougan is hosting a radio show, Almost There, in a trial run for 90.5 FM, WCBE. He's blogging about his days in the music biz at DanDougan.com. And he's booking a Thursday night music series at Bristol Bar called Listening Hours at Bristol, starting tonight with two sets from The Sun's Chris Burney.
I ran a few snippets from my interview with Dougan in today's paper, but we discussed much more including the closing of Liquid, the bar that replaced Little Brother's, his ambition to open a cafe in Westgate and his wife Tracy Zollinger Turner's role in promoting "the cottage industry that is me." Full text of the interview after the jump:
Dan Dougan at Little Brother's in 2007
In the two-plus years since Little Brotherís closed, Dan Dougan, the man who ran the Short North music hub and its North Campus forebear, Stacheís, has kept a low profile. Now heís easing back into the public eye.
Dougan is hosting a radio show, Almost There, in a trial run for 90.5 FM, WCBE. Heís blogging about his days in the music biz at DanDougan.com. And heís booking a Thursday night music series at Bristol Bar called Listening Hours at Bristol, starting tonight with two sets from The Sunís Chris Burney.
I ran a few snippets from my interview with Dougan in today's paper, but we discussed much more including the closing of Liquid, the bar that replaced Little Brotherís, his ambition to open a cafe in Westgate and his wife Tracy Zollinger Turnerís role in promoting ďthe cottage industry that is me.Ē Full text of the interview after the jump:
Alive: So are you serious about wanting to open a cafť?
Dougan: Well, we need one over there on the West side. I mean, thereís nothing to do. Itís a good little neighborhood, Westgate, where we live. Itís a classy little place. It looks like Beaver grew up there. Anyway, Westgate has nothing to do over there. It really doesnít. Thereís a lot of tattoo shops. Thereís some nice little mom-and-pop pizza shops. I was going to some meetings with Josh Quinn of Tiger Tree, and that was the general consensus, that someone needed to do that. Iím like well, I could use a job, so weíll see what we can do. Itís a matter of money ó I need someone to lend me money in times like these. Thatís what I need to do. And weíll see.
But for now Iím going to focus on these couple things that I assume weíre here to talk about, which is the radio gig and the Thursday night listening hours at Bristol. And remember, itís not ďTheĒ Bristol, itís Bristol.
No, absolutely not. Itís the opposite of Ohio State, where itís ďTheĒ Ohio State University. But not ďTheĒ Bristol.
(Laughing) Thatís right. And they canít say ďTheĒ Ohio University, can they?
No, they make a big stink about that. Though at OU they have a bunch of hoodies that say Ohio: ďTheĒ State University.
So howíd you end up doing the radio show?
Well, keep in mind, Iím not official yet until they, one, find a place for me on air, and two, itís contingent on positive feedback from listeners. And thatís by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. This has come through a series of conversations with Dan Mushalko, the general manager.
Did you approach him or did he approach you?
Yeah, we approached him, that maybe there would be room for this, I donít know, ďclassicĒ CBE? I hate the word nostalgia, but we all love nostalgia itself. And I recall a day when, in the heyday of Stacheís or at some points at Little Brotherís where, in my world, as much as 101 [101.1 FM, WWCD] has influenced the music scene, Iíve felt more of a sense of community with WCBE in my place.
Columbus has expanded, and thereís lots more options right now. And thatís a good thing, but I think there was a time when there was more of a sense of that community. And you still get it, especially when you go to Community Festival óComFest ó but that sense of belonging, or being ďthere.Ē And ďthereĒ was the phrase that we often used with Stacheís and then Little Brotherís. With Stacheís it was ďYa been there?Ē So ďthereĒ is an abstract sense of belonging. Like when youíre watching a really, really good show. For me it might be Steve Forbert, for others it could be the Decemberists. It could even be Nashville Pussy. But itís that moment when you sort of transcend your surroundings and all that matters is whatís going on right at that moment right around you.
When you say ďclassic CBE,Ē what were they doing back then that was so tied in with what you were doing? And how do plan to revisit that?
Well, a lot of acts like Jonathan Richman or Southern Culture on the Skids ó they were playing them, and the acts were coming to my club. And itís not that that doesnít happen now. It does happen now. But for a lot of us whoíve settled down with the kids, as I say, we all look at nostalgia. We all look back. And I look back to a time, say, the 90s. And a lot of people have said this too, that sense of there being more of a collective sense back then.
I donít want the show to be entirely nostalgia. Itís just a starting point. Like on the Thanksgiving show, I played Monsters of Folk. Well, they didnít play Little Brotherís for sure, but M. Ward was there a number of times. So Iíll be playing stuff that will be contemporary for people who were there.
One thing I like about CBE is that they play a lot of new music. Thereís a lot of stuff ó itís not been completely abandoned. They spin it now and then.
So the focus of your show is kind of revisiting a lot of the acts that played at Stacheís and Little Brotherís over the years?
Exactly ó and that had a connection with CBE, mostly, or were played on CBE.
And youíre doing some trial runs right now?
What Iím doing right now is a series of holiday shows to see what the public thinks. We aired one on Thanksgiving at 2 p.m. We pre-recorded it, so I was actually cooking a turkey at the time and nervously mashing potatoes. Then the other shows will air Christmas Eve at 1 p.m. and New Yearís Day at 1 p.m.
I did more of a theme for Thanksgiving, sort of ó well there was food, and there was (ed: adopting twangy accent) America. And then Monsters of Folk song was that lead-off tune, ďDear God.Ē So a little bit of higher power there too. But mostly I tried to convey a gratitude sort of attitude.
I donít think Iíll do a Christmas-y thing. Thereís more than enough Christmas stuff out there. People will be doggone sick of Christmas by then. New Yearís Day weíll emphasize change, transition. So itís more of in an abstract way that weíll focus on the holiday, but weíll try to establish a little bit more about what the show is going to be, the sense of ďthereĒ that the show will give.
I also tell stories. Like Thanksgiving Day was about Sun Ra at a Thanksgiving dinner in the neighborhood where Stacheís was. And the irony of it was it wasnít that wild, crazy or insane of a thing. Quite frankly, it was a pretty normal Thanksgiving dinner, it just happened to be with extraterrestrial musicians. So that was the story for then, and Iíll figure out something for the other shows.
Ideally the CBE show would be in the evening and on the weekend, but weíll see.
So whatís it called?
Almost There. And if they didnít hear it, thereíll be podcasts at almostthereradio.com and links at the 19 other spaces where you can find me like LittleBrothers.com, Facebook ó and DanDougan.com, donít forget that.
That just started recently, right?
DanDougan.com? We just started to put a few things there. Weíve kept LittleBrothers.com going the whole time.
Is there anything new over there?
Well, not much. Just information about this. But thereíll be links at LittleBrothers.com and DanDougan.com to tell you where to go to please send an e-mail to CBE.
At DanDougan.com, youíre reminiscing as well, right?
Thatís where the blogging has been. How could I go past that? Yeah, Iíve told a series of stories right now, to this point, about Stacheís and Little Brotherís. And I will continue. About once every week to 10 days I plan on putting something in there that would hopefully entertain people about circumstances that happened at either of the nightclubs. Of course thereís lots of crazy things that go on.
Seems like thereís an interest in that kind of stuff. There was a lot of interest in Bela Koe-Krompecherís blog.
Right, absolutely. Well, Belaís is a different thing because itís a personal story of his pre-recovery days. Especially with Jerry and Jen, who was a childhood friend of his. Way back. But his is more like personal memoir thing, you know? Which I suppose you could call my blog in the memoir area. But I like to think itís one of those hopefully entertaining showbiz-y kinds of things, sort of like Paul Shafferís book. Which Iíd like to read, by the way. I love those kinds of books. Like Ray Charles, did you ever read Brother Ray? Or Dr. John has Under a Hoodoo Moon. Oh, man. Somehow Dr. John played all those years in New Orleans, etc. etc. ó was apparently on junk all the time ó remembers everybody. Everybody! Their mom, their dad, their nicknames. But I digress.
And again, Tracyís editing that stuff too. Sheís producing the radio show. Plus sheís also doing a childrenís segment on the radio show. Itís called ďCulture Cycle.Ē
Youíve been giving her a lot of credit for spurring you to do all this stuff.
Not only do it, but she uses her editor skills. And on the radio show, sheís the one who took the time to learn to use ProTools and that application to actually engineer the show. Iím used to looking over peopleís shoulders when Iíve recorded my music before. But I havenít learned ó bottom line is Iím almost a luddite when it comes to technology. Not like Iím going to take a wrench to it, but I just didnít embrace it. You can ask anybody who ever worked for me at Little Brotherís. Christ, I just learned how to type a year or so ago.
Part of that was taking a computer class. I took some classes at OSU for a couple years. But I donít know, being a college student ó I still have a long way to go because I was picking up from just one year at Kent State back in the 70s.
Is that something youíre still working on, college stuff?
No, itís too much money, actually. But I did get a little bit further down the line if I ever decide to get a degree.
What about the series at Bristol?
Itís called Listening Hours at Bristol. Every Thursday starting December 3.
Thatís the one with the Sun, right?
Yeah, Chris Burney. Chris is going to do two sets. Oneís with the Sun, and the second is with Courtney Jacobs. (ed: Burney is collaborating with Jacobs in a new band called Adult Fiction). So two sides of his musical projects right now. Itís only $3.
Howíd it come about?
Thatís a good question. Somebody recommended that I talk to Todd Anderson at Bristol. He had a falling out with his partner at some point. He owns the building. Heís been running the bar with the help of his manager. And itís mostly been like a boutique disco or something. But he had an interest in doing some live music. I spoke to him last winter, and it seemed like he decided not to do it.
Then he called me this fall and said, ďHey, I want to try this once a week. Letís do it on Thursdays.Ē I had spoken to him quite a bit back then about how we would do it, what it would look like, how we could do it. And all along he asked me what I thought I might do if he gave me one night, and I said I thought I would do ďlistening music.Ē And he looked at me like, ďIsnít all music listening music?Ē Well, no. Again, back to that ďbeing thereĒ kind of feeling at certain shows, itís reallyóI think I missed a lot of good music at my own place because I didnít shut my big mouth. Just shut up and listen up, you know? Just focus and let it absorb.
You know, you can chat. I donít want to be some Nazi running around telling people to be quiet. That happened one night when Iris DeMentís manager asked me to make sure everybody was quiet. People still hate me for that, 'cause then they couldnít even talk at all.
But itís just a matter of giving your attention to the stage and to whatís going on there. So if you want to yell at each other over your beer, thereís another room where the bar is. You can go in there. Or Iíll give you your three bucks back, and you can head on down the road. But primarily what we want people to do is come in and listen. So I want to emphasize the dynamics. I donít want to blow people down. I donít want to go back to the harder, faster, louder rock íní roll days.
So itís going to be mostly on the quieter end?
Yeah. That doesnít mean everything has to be all the time. Like I said, itís more of a dynamic. Itís more of having that ability ó where people are attentive. And that was the good thing about both my rooms. Most everybody that was there was there to hear the band, and they generally understood that.
Why choose Bristol as opposed to anywhere else?
Again because Todd asked me to do it. The guy basically asking me to do what I want to do. And itís a nice room. Itís not that I couldnít go to other places. What I like about this is that the room doesnít have a live music identity at this point. Itís basically a clean slate, fresh canvas, whatever term you want to use. There will also be some spoken word mixed in. Iím going to kick that off. My friend Christopher Appelís going to do one of them. Expect to see musicians like Megan Palmer. Chris is doing his thing. Eric Nassauís one of them. Todd May of Peloton Records is the third week. The three weeks that are booked so far are Burney, Nassau and Steve McGannís Peloton Records thing with Todd May playing that night. I also am going to do the Alwood Sisters, who I think are great. If thereís one act in this town that I think would be perfect for what Iím trying to do, it would be them. And of course itís not just the Alwood sisters, itís the Karcic brothers. I think they really epitomize the idea of what Iím trying to get across. You miss a lot while youíre yelling at someone over your beer. Not that that doesnít have its place to. Itís just not going to be at this place. Do you have any thoughts about Liquid closing?
Yeah, thoughts about it that Iím not really surprised. They spent a lot of money, I realize, and I donít think they had a clue what they were up against. They had an idea, and lots of people do. But the landlord took advantage of them as heís that kind of individual, it seems. Their falling on hard times doesnít do me any good. And Iím not wasting my time with hard feelings towards those people or their business.
Iím not sure that Little Brotherís as it was was going to work. I had a lot of faith in the guys that were going to buy me out a year before we closed because they were going to adapt a little bit more than I was. I think they were going to go some pre-recorded music and/or disco, dance club, whatever you want to call it. Push that avenue a little bit more. Pump up specials, happy hour, things of that nature. I was going to stay to advise in the live music. But to this day I really think that the landlord really put the kibosh on us with his absurd 40 percent increase after face to face telling me we could have 15 percent. But thatís history, but thatís not such an entertaining story that I want to even go into it on the blog.
But overall thereís an aspect of the local music scene that hardly exists now, and thatís that there are popular local bands, love íem or hate íem, that drew between 150 and 400 people on any given Friday or Saturday. I think Ekoostik Hookah and Spikedrivers are the only two I can think of that are capable of that, if you want to call Hookah local. That aspect of the music business started to disappear some time after the millennium. It hasnít come back. I donít think it will. And that was a big part of our business. Those were nights I could count on where we werenít putting up big guarantees. People have no idea how many nights I had 200, 300 people there and still lost money with national acts.
Thatís not to say the national acts were failing. Quite frankly, the national acts were taking care of themselves like they always did. You win some, you lose some, keep rolling. But not having those local heroes ó there was a point at Stacheís where I had Greenhorn and Mary Adam 12 and Pica Huss, and Ray Fuller was still drawing a crowd on the weekend. Stuff like that. I had tons of bands that would pull in 300 or 400, and that didnít exist (anymore). Thatís my point that a lot of people donít realize that. Iím not sure that Little Brotherís could survive right now if you canít get that kind of thing going, and I donít see that happening.