A music scene is a microcosm of culture as a whole: With time comes a waxing and waning of cool. In our short-attention-span culture, bands are discovered, adored and discarded with the passing of seasons.

A music scene is a microcosm of culture as a whole: With time comes a waxing and waning of cool. In our short-attention-span culture, bands are discovered, adored and discarded with the passing of seasons.

The process is slower with venues, but sure enough, what begins as the new hot thing eventually becomes yesterday's news. There are always standbys that find their niche and last for decades, but on the whole bars cycle in and out of favor - and business - with regularity.

In recent years the tide has been turning among Columbus music bars. Lots of new locations dot the live music landscape, many of them previous businesses reconfigured by ambitious entrepreneurs.

Three notable examples: Jimmy Woodland, who spent 2010 reshaping Grandview blues hub Thirsty Ear Tavern into Woodlands Tavern; Jacob Wooten and Nick Wolak, who re-imagined forgotten University District rock club Oldfield's on High as Kobo last summer; and Marcy Mays, who earlier this year turned an abandoned jock bar called Sloopy's into Ace of Cups.

We found out how they've brought their forsaken spaces back to life and how they intend to stay relevant for the long run. These five trends emerged.

Remade in their image: The first order of business is fixing up the place. Sometimes the change was merely aesthetic; Kobo's owners installed softer lights, removed 147 beer signs and lined the walls with a collection of framed Columbus concert posters and discarded taxidermy.

Other locations required more serious updates. Ace of Cups replaced huge sections of the floor and built a new stage. Woodland added a patio, knocked out walls to expand The Thirsty Ear's main room and converted the space next door - previously a messy storage space and hangout for performing bands - into an expanded concert room, almost doubling the bar's size. Call it Extreme Makeover: Bar Edition.

All three bars changed their names too, looking to make a clean break with the past and alert the public to a new regime.

It takes a village: You can't run a successful music bar with one or two people. Ace of Cups is open and operational only because dozens of Mays' friends have contributed time and money; though her name is on the lease, she considers the bar a community project.

Woodland made a point of delegating responsibility, appointing "passionate, competent people" to handle booking, promotion and social media. Rather than hire his own kitchen staff, he forged a partnership with Mikey's Late Night Slice that has proved mutually beneficial.

The teamwork was so crucial that it inspired Woodland to change the bar's name from the possessive - "Woodland's" with an apostrophe - to the more communal Woodlands. He adjusted the sign out front accordingly.

"I went out there and hacked off the apostrophe one day," he said.

With that communal spirit in mind, Kobo opens the bar up for community meetings and hosts numerous parties and fundraisers.

Take care of people: Kobo has gone to great lengths to provide a comfortable experience for bands, decking out the green room and rearranging to better accommodate instrument storage and merchandise sales. Wooten and Wolak are forging relationships and getting touring bands to make Kobo part of their regular travel rotation.

All three of these bars aim to treat every band to a warm welcome, from established touring acts to upstart locals playing their first show.

Woodland felt like the old Thirsty Ear gave newcomers a chilly reception, so he brought in a new staff for Woodlands. Such hospitality flows naturally with a people person in the house.

"One of the main reasons I was in a band was because I like to socialize," Mays said.

Mix things up: Keeping a venue vibrant requires variety.

"If we book the same old bands over and over, we're gonna screw ourselves," Mays said.

One of Woodland's first pursuits was to broaden the range of bands on his bar's concert calendar. To that end, Woodlands has hosted everything from bluegrass concerts to Pabst Blue Ribbon's all-day indie rock festival Megacity Music Marathon. The bar has also experimented with bringing in touring comedians.

As for Kobo, they've hosted a wide range of weekly events - '90s night, a spoken word hip-hop night, the country-themed Whiskey Social - in an effort to get different faces through the door. And they're seeking to bring a fresh influx of touring bands to town.

"The Columbus music scene is more than just what comes out of the city," Wooten said.

Stay involved in the outside world: All of the bar owners stressed the need to get involved with the world outside their bars. Besides the obvious benefit of being a known presence in the music scene, community involvement keeps bar owners aware of what's working for other venues and which bands are creating a buzz. And it keeps the day-to-day business of running a bar from feeling like a grind.

That's one reason Wooten and Wolak stay busy planning events like Trauma, Independents' Day and Music Week Columbus, besides keeping their first business, Evolved Body Art, afloat.

"We're not worried about becoming stagnant," Wolak said. "We're not going to be stagnant, ever."

Photos by Jodi Miller