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WHERE: The Southgate House – Newport, KY
WHEN: December 31, 2011
HIGHLIGHT: Celebrating a legendary local venue’s rich history in style.
Thirty years of Cincinnati-area music history has gone dark, following the New Year’s Eve closing of the legendary Southgate House. Newport, Kentucky’s historic Victorian landmark on the Ohio River was shuttered following legal settlement of a sibling co-ownership dispute. Ross Raleigh, the manager of the venue for the past 30 years, was bought out of his share of the property and has plans to re-open another musical establishment nearby.
I was fortunate enough to catch the sold-out final show. Sixteen bands played on the three stages within the building. Juney’s Lounge, at the left of the entryway, housed smaller or mostly acoustic acts. The upstairs Parlour hosted more adventurous and raucous groups, and the rear Ballroom, with a horseshoe balcony overlooking the main floor, featured the bands that drew the largest audiences.
Shortly before 9 p.m. in the main Ballroom, the party was up and running as the Frankl Project were first on its stage. Other memorable sights: The Parlour, where it appeared prerequisite for guys on stage to be shirtless by the end of their sets (sometimes even at the beginning). Many amped-up groups performing here for such an enclosed space, but the patrons were hardly bothered and crowded close to catch every guitar riff and each powerful vocal. SHIVS were very impressive on that stage. Hard and loud.
Back at the Ballroom, sonic rockers Banderas baited their audience by tossing crushed beer cans into the throng, and got it as good as they gave when they were hurled right back up at the stage. The flying cans looked like they might threaten to release the Midnight overhead balloon drop net early. Things held up, however.
When it was time for the New Year toast, all performers were invited on stage in the Ballroom to celebrate the 2012 countdown. Balloons cascaded down, people roared and began noisily stomping on them as soon as they hit the floor. Some toilet paper rolls were thrown into the audience for good measure, and underfoot became a soggy, trashed mess.
Then Ross Raleigh appeared for his final farewell, his daughter Morella beside him. It was a bittersweet moment as he recounted his decades of involvement with The Southgate House, and his appreciation for all the bands that had passed through the beloved venue. He vowed that he would re-open very soon. Much applause and cheering greeted that announcement.
The Dopamines also happened to be celebrating their fifth-year anniversary, but they didn’t seem to mind closing the Ballroom for the night. Irreverent and funny, they lifted the celebratory atmosphere back up. Never expecting to be together this long when they began their career, they’ve accomplished more than they could have even guessed.
The Southgate House’s closing will leave a definite void in the Cincinnati-area music scene, but they sure threw themselves one very memorable farewell party.
photos by Rick Carroll