Tuesday, April 3, 2007

King Midas in Reverse - Cincinnati's Alchemize

While clubs such as Northside Tavern (best bar in Ohio), The Comet, Poison Room and many more continue to thrive in Cincinnati's talented music scene, a club called Alchemize continues it's descent.
The bar is expected to close, yet again, only to re-open somewhere else, yet again. Read the whole story HERE
A 20-something Cincinnati well-to-do, Nick Spencer is the man behind the bar. He first earned local media attention after running unsuccesfully for Cincinnati's City Council a few years ago. His cause was to help bring the decaying Over the Rhine district back from the grave. He pushed for more of a police presence in the district and he pushed for the city to court its young residents, which he claimed were pushed out in droves to seek other cities more intent on highlighting local arts and culture.
All of these were lovely and just causes that soon turned sour.
You can find a discussion on the changes at Alchemize at the CincyMusic message board, located HERE. Scroll down. It goes on for another 6 pages, but it's worth it.
Back story: Spencer first opened his Alchemize club in Over the Rhine and it proved to be a success, offering a great live music venue for local bands. The venue also brought in a steady stream of national acts from Mates of State to Of Montreal. But rumors of mismanagement soon popped up. The bar also became a magnet for Over the Rhine ruffians, who often showed up to cause problems. Broken windows and fights became more frequent.
Spencer announced it was City Council's fault for not providing more police and then closed shop. Although, Spencer critics claimed he mismanaged the bar, so was forced to close down and blamed it on City Council to save face.
In the meantime, Spencer had more grandiose plans. He announced his intentions of a Cincinnati concert to end all concerts. Enter: The Desdemona Festival.
Truly a magnificent idea, the festival featured three days of supreme national indie rock bands from Apples in Stereo, Heartless Bastards, The Walkmen, We are Scientists, Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos and many, many more. The event also featured regional bands such as the Captain of Industry, Turnbull ACs, Paper Airplane, The High and the Low, Spectacular Fantastic, and more playing alongside the nationals.
The only problem was that Spencer allegedly mismanaged the festival, failed to contact City Council soon enough to get proper permits and ended up losing thousands (eventually his debt was covered by a friend). He claimed in the media that City Council was just choosing not to support local arts again.
But things got worse, because Spencer allegedly got out of debt by not paying any of the local performers. This is where it apparently got really shady.
Regional bands said they were expected to go to places in Cincinnati in order to collect their pay and conveniently Spencer didn't show up. It's been almost a year now and Spencer is still stringing the regional bands along. He just stopped returning phone calls and emails.
Long story short, Spencer sends out a release (found on the Cincy Music link above) for his version of why Alchemize had to shut down again - citing his business partners "dishonesty." I guess that caused a flurry of hate in his direction, with screams of 'hipocrite.' So he followed it up with an apology letter (also found in the Cincy Music link above).
(This is where my nice article turns pretty opinionated)
I really just want to highlight that music scenes are based on trust. When your reputation is known for ripping people off, you screw yourself. But what really pisses me off about Spencer is that stealing from bands is like stealing from the church donation basket.
Musicians work their asses off to create their art. That needs to be respected. It takes a shitload of effort to tour and put out CDs. It's harder then any day job could ever be, and most have those too. Any scrap of cash they earn from these shows helps to keep their art moving forward. When Spencer cheats them out of that money, I hope he gets everything Karma brings.
I just hope Spencer becomes a man soon, goes down the list of local performers he's screwed and makes amends. Maybe start with the local bands and then pay back the money he apparently still owes Of Montreal.
Until then, fuck him.
(Update: I hear the venue located at the current Alchemize location will remain open, but change names. That's good news. Until Spencer starts owning up to his debts, I plan on avoiding Alchemize from now on. Until then, why would anyone ever want to go there when Northside Tavern is a couple blocks away????)

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