When I was a teenager, I started hanging out at a hole-in-the-wall dive bar on campus called Bernie’s to see punk rock shows. About 12 years later, an old friend convinced me to go to a local show at the old watering hole where I randomly met Matt Jensen, drummer of local punk band The Scratches. Jensen performed that night first with his side project (going by band name Earthworm Tim at the time), and later with The Scratches, who put on a punk rock show truly fitting for the atmosphere. It wasn’t until later that I realized I also knew the band’s bass player, Darby Antle; having met him at ComFest many years earlier. Since seeing The Scratches for the first time, my girlfriend and I have seen them around town several times, playing venues all over the city and truly paying their dues.

I sat down with Mr. Jensen recently to discuss some of the best venues in Columbus to see local bands, and it was only fitting that we started with Bernie’s.

Matt Jensen Press Photo
Matt Jensen on the throne

: Bernie’s

Location: 1896 N. High St. (North Campus)

Crowd Type: Punk. Says Jensen: “If you want to feel like you’re going to a true punk rock show, you should probably go to Bernie’s. You’ll probably get your teeth kicked in and a broken nose.”

Music Scene: Mostly locals. Some touring bands, but not as many as there used to be. Punk rock is the mainstay, but on any given night you can find anything from alternative to hip-hop.

Bar: Bernie’s bar is tiny, crowded, and usually only staffed by one person at a time, but it’s probably the cheapest domestic beer you’ll find in the area.

Average Admission Price: $8, and the occasional free show.

Food: Though colloquially known as just Bernie’s, its full name is actually Bernie’s Bagels & Deli/The Distillery. During the day, Bernie’s is just like any other campus deli serving affordable sandwiches, soups, and sides to Ohio State University students.

Parking: Not the best. If you’re lucky enough to find a meter on or near High St., you had better take it. Otherwise, you’re relegated to driving through neighborhoods filled with frat houses trying to find a spot to wedge into. If you have money, (what punk rocker does?), you can park at the OSU Union parking garage across the street for a few bucks.

Stage and Sound Quality: Much like the bar, Bernie’s stage, if you can call it that, is small and backed into a corner. Rising only a few inches off of the ground, it puts enough distance between the fans and bands for nominal comfort and boasts two large PA speakers. Though the sound quality is not the greatest, the performing bands sound very authentic and live- which only adds to the experience.

Takeaway: Bernie’s is the place to be if you want to see an authentic punk rock show. Find a decent place to park and bring a few bucks for beers, and you’re likely to have a hell of a night.

Venue: Scarlet & Grey

Location: 2203 N. High St. (another North Campus favorite)

Crowd Type: College crowd. Shows are ages 18+, with a big presence of students from Ohio State University.

Music Scene: Anything goes. You might have touring bands, locals, electronica and dubstep, and acoustic music all in the same weekend. S&G’s slogan is “we treat bands like rockstars,” offering a green room backstage with private bathrooms for performing artists as well as couches and a TV, which helps bring a lot of bands (and their fans) coming back.

Bar: You can expect a fully stocked bar with average “campus” prices. There are generally a few staff on hand who offer good service and treatment.

Average Admission Price: $7, with several free shows each month.

Food: Just like Bernie’s, most people leave the “café” out of the Scarlet & Grey Café’s name. Though the menu is small, patrons can choose from pizza, burgers, fries, and wings, adding to your typical college campus bar experience.

Parking: Parking is available on many of the side streets off of High St., and will usually require driving around 3 or 4 blocks on a busy night to find a good spot.

Stage and Sound Quality: The stage at Scarlet & Grey is noticeably big, with drum risers and enough room for a full-sized band to perform with all of their instruments and have room to move around. Jensen says that S&G has some of the “best lighting and sound” of the many venues The Scratches have performed in Columbus.

Takeaway: Scarlet & Grey is a good venue for an all ages (18+) show, has a great atmosphere for the performing bands, and you can see touring artists there without having to go through the hassle of TicketMaster.

The Scratches at Victorys
The Scratches performing at Victory’s Live

Venue: Victory’s

Location: 543 S. High St. (Brewery District)

Crowd Type: Post-college adults there to hear local music. Located between downtown Columbus and the Brewery District, Jensen usually finds the crowd to be around 25 – 30 years old.

Music Scene: Mostly local rock, alternative, and punk bands. Just like Bernie’s, you’re likely to hear a lot of unique music from Columbus’ underground scene.

Bar: Micro-brews, local-brews, and popular domestics are staple finds at Victory’s bar. Prices are a little higher than your typical dive bar, but remain standard for any local music venue in town. Fully stocked and spacious enough for comfortable seating.

Average Admission Price: Free

Food: Adjacent to the music room, Victory’s offers an in-house pizza place with subs, sides, and all your favorite pie varieties. Prices are average and service is tableside.

Parking: This may just be one of the most convenient venues for parking. Because most of the businesses in the area close down at night, Jensen finds the area to be “safe, with great parking at the meters on High St.”

Stage and Sound Quality: The stage is a little small, and forget about seeing the drummer once the fog machine comes on, but Jensen describes the sound system and lighting as an “awesome experience for both fans and audience.”

Takeaway: If you want your audience to have a good time, be well fed, and have a great selection of drinks, Victory’s is the place to be.

Venue: The Basement

Location: 391 Neil Ave. (Arena District)

Crowd Type: A marketer’s dream. Being a part of the PromoWest family, the Basement attracts fans of all ages who attend to see national and international touring bands. Jensen feels “you’re more likely to find a commercial target audience there than locals just there to drink and see their friends’ bands.”

Music Scene: DJs, indie, electronic, pop-punk, rap, etc. Mostly touring bands, but PromoWest is very good about getting locals to open, such as when The Scratches opened for Anti-Flag last month.

Bar: Long and shallow, the bar offers a lot of seating and several TVs to watch the stage or something else on television. Jensen describes prices and selection as “typical for any music venue, with big brand drinks and quick service.”

Average Admission Price: $13 plus TicketMaster fees.

Food: Though the venue itself doesn’t provide food, it is connected to the A&R bar upstairs which serves Mikey’s Late Night Slice; arguably one of the most popular food truck enterprises in town.

Parking: Jensen describes parking in this area as another safe bet, with parking garages across the street on Neil Avenue as well as a large lot behind the venue.

Stage and Sound Quality: Being a part of the PromoWest family, The Basement offers “a nice stage with great lighting and a professional sound engineer.” The stage is sunken, unlike almost any other venue in Columbus, but still provides an interesting experience.

Takeaway: The Basement is not your local mom-and-pop venue. It is professional, commercial, and you’re far more likely to walk into a show from a touring band than a local.

The Scratches at The Basement
The Scratches’ setup for a performance at The Basement

Venue: Ace of Cups

Location: 2619 N. High St. (Just north of North Campus)

Crowd type: Without sounding cheeky, the crowd type at Ace of Cups is your typical college hipster.

Music Scene: Popular local groups, some touring bands, mostly indie and alternative. The Scratches played there once, so sometimes pop-punk.

Bar: Ace of Cups is certainly unique in this article as it probably provides the most imports, micro-brews, and other rare finds for beer connoisseurs. Prices are what you would expect to pay for an imported lager from The Netherlands, but having a wide selection is a distinctive factor.

Average Admission Price: $7, and the occasional free comedy show.

Food: Though AoC has eclectic food finds such as sweet coconut rice porridge, easter pie with kale salad, and vegan empanadas, Jensen was quick to remind me of the cornerstone campus establishments in the area such as Hounddog’s Pizza and Mikey’s Late Night Slice. Ray Ray’s Hog Pit & BBQ also delivers to AoC’s parking lot each weekend.

Parking: There is a small parking lot available, but once it fills up, you’re back to circling the neighborhood to find a side street to park on.

Stage and Sound Quality: Jensen described the sound quality as good, with a big, wide stage which gives the audience a better chance at visually seeing the bands.

Takeaway: This is a bar for the in-crowd. Micro-brews, indie bands, and food you’ve never heard of will leave an inimitable taste in your mouth.

Venue: Spacebar

Location: 2590 N. High St. (North Campus, across the street from Ace of Cups)

Crowd Type: A “noticeably younger crowd, with hardcore, pop-punk, and other alternative bands.” When discussing the crowd, Jensen and I both felt that the crowd was very inclusive and friendly.

Music Scene: The Spacebar definitely caters to local bands, as the one time that I was there, members of local bands who were not performing that night made up a large population of the audience and even staff. Jensen describes the music as having “a lot of locals, some touring bands, and other popular bands from the Midwest. Lots of acoustic, alternative, and pop-punk.”

Bar: Fitting to their name, this venue has an excellent bar tucked away at the back of the room. “There are a lot of craft beers on tap as well as popular domestic beers.” Prices are average or even a little higher than average, but you definitely get what you pay for.

Average Admission Price: $7, and the occasional free show.

Food: Though the venue doesn’t have food available, the building is right next door to Mikey’s Late Night Slice (which I’ve plugged three times now in this article).

Parking: There is a small lot, but typical to campus, you’re more likely to find a spot on one of the residential side streets.

Stage and Sound Quality: Jensen describes the stage as “big and open, with good sound quality.” He also mentioned that the owners of the venue were still in the process of acoustical soundproofing, as the Spacebar was recently renovated from now-closed venue Kobo.

Takeaway: “It’s a nice little place to play or see a show, with a good atmosphere and newly-renovated improvements upon the old venue.”

You can catch The Scratches at their next performance at Vans Warped Tour in Cincinnati on July 16th on the Ernie Ball Stage or tune in to 99.7 The Blitz Local Stuff to hear their latest studio single, “Left Sunk In.”





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The Scratches Cartoon Press Photo

Do you remember your first real concert? By “real,” I mean the first time you ever went to see a band you actually liked, not like the time my parents took me to see Cheap Trick at the State Fair, or even that time I accidentally saw LeAnn Rimes at the amusement park (it was not amusing). No, I’m talking about the first time you actively pursued a band whose music meant something to you and having an unforgettable time at one of their shows.


All the way back in the early 2000s when I was just a young chap, I picked up a sampler album at Hot Topic (I know) called Pure Punk Rock by Punk Core Records. This disc contained many of the bands I would worship over the next few years, drawing me closer and closer to the dingy, dirty, run-down dive bars that I would frequent throughout high school. The sampler contained a song by a band called The Unseen, who was a pretty straight-forward street punk band from Boston (sidenote: their bassist has since written a pretty entertaining book which you can check out here). A couple of months after starting my freshman year of high school in the autumn of 2003, this thing called the internet told me that The Unseen were coming to my town. They were playing at Newport Music Hall, a place I had never heard of, but would later go on to perform several times myself.

I worked up the courage to ask my parents if I could go to the freak fest, and sheepishly inquired if they had ever heard of the Newport Music Hall. Both parents laughed and reminisced that they had spent many a night there when they were younger, but seemed a little reserved at letting 14 year old me attend the show. We somehow worked it out that my mother would take me (so punk rock) and my best friend’s mother would attend as well. I checked out the lineup online, and the headlining band were Dropkick Murphy’s who I had heard of, and the opening band were called Roger Miret and the Disasters.

I had never heard of the opener before, but this was my first big chance to discover some new music so we arrived early. My mom and her accomplice each grabbed a beer, which was a sight I had only seen a few times in my entire life up until that point. Immediately the mood changed and I sensed that it was going to be a fun night. My friends and I went into the pit and tried to act like we belonged there as Roger Miret and the Disasters started and put on one hell of a show. They were high energy, catchy, and unlike any other punk band I had heard at that time.

After their set, my mother and I were hanging around the merch booths when an older gentleman approached me and complimented me on my The Clash back patch. I said thank you and the three of us sparked up a conversation about older bands and who were our favorites. I didn’t even realize it, but I was speaking to Roger Miret, the singer of the opening band (and for all of you hardcore kids out there, also THE VOCALIST OF AGNOSTIC FRONT). My mother and I spoke to Roger for a while and before I knew it he was giving me free stickers, patches and pins, and once he found out that I had a couple of friends with me, went back to his merch booth and gave us even more goodies. This absolutely blew my mind, as everybody around me had neck tattoos, leather jackets and mohawks, and to be honest, I was a little frightened. This bad-ass looking dude not only turned out to be a perfect gentleman, but left me feeling included and inspired to be a part of his community.

My “gear.”

The Unseen played next and I had a wonderful time pogoing, skanking, circle pitting, and picking up my fallen brothers and sisters off the ground. It was everything I ever wanted and more, and cemented the idea that this is where I belonged. I would later go on to see The Unseen about a million times more and had some excellent conversations with their drummer Pat, who was yet another amazing dude willing to spend his time talking to a random teenage kid like me. The Dropkicks went on last, and as I’m sure you can imagine completely blew my mind. By the end of the night, I was on stage with the band and a bunch of fat, drunken, sweaty Irishmen singing songs arm in arm and having the time of my life. It was and will remain one of the most memorable nights of my adolescent years.

Exactly four years later, in October of 2007, I was playing drums in a hardcore band who had seen mild popularity playing around the Midwest and Canada. Our band was asked to be the openers for an all-day hardcore music festival, whose headliner would be Agnostic Front. Nostalgia hit me like a ton of bricks when I thought about how just four years earlier I was an awkward kid going to his first punk show and now had the opportunity to play with a band whose vocalist had a major impact on me. I loaded up my gear and hit the road for Dayton, OH where we were to go on around noon.


When my band played, there weren’t many people there, aside from a couple of other bands. We gave it our all and still had a wonderful time, and got to see a lot of other great bands throughout the day. Agnostic Front closed the night, and were really a sight to be seen. Everybody in the venue was going absolutely insane, moshing, singing along, and you could tell that this band meant a lot to everyone there. After the show ended, I had to make my way back toward Columbus and was unable to catch up with Mr. Miret that night. I doubt I would have had a chance anyway as he was the most popular man in the room, but I really felt like things had come full circle. I learned a valuable lesson about the relationship between artists and their fans, and remain grateful for what Mr. Miret taught me: don’t forget about the little people.