Grog Shop celebrates 20 years of the offbeat
It wasn’t supposed to last this long.
When Kathy Blackman started the Grog Shop at age 23, she wasn't intending to create the enduring Coventry landmark over which she presides today. “I had no idea that this would become my career,” she said. “It was just a job and something fun to do.”
Though it has moved locations and aged 20 years, the venue is still that “something fun” for Blackman. While discussing its storied legacy, she sits cross-legged, jostling one leg up and down, and speaks in a rapid staccato. The Grog, as it is affectionately known, began as a bar that served food and only occasionally booked shows.
As Blackman began to carve a niche for the Grog, booking “a lot of punk and hardcore” bands, it began its transition into a full-fledged music venue. Over time, the Grog’s offerings expanded to other genres, including hip-hop, ska and comedy. Blackman cites diversity as crucial to the Grog’s success, noting, “You have to evolve with the times and keep it fresh.”
The Grog’s legacy will expand further in September, when it celebrates its 20th anniversary with a diverse collection of performers over two weeks. These include bands Blackman describes as “way too big to play here”—bands that played the Grog early in their careers and went on to achieve widespread success, such as Alkaline Trio, the Melvins, and Guided by Voices, whose September appearance is sold out.
The celebration will also put an emphasis on local artists—those with experience and an established following, as well as younger groups. “We’re nostalgic,” Blackman explained, “but we want to give back to the people who are current and relevant, and who we hope like to play here.”
As for the Grog Shop’s future, beyond the 20th-anniversary blowout, Blackman plans to expand the patio space of the B-Side, the Grog’s adjacent restaurant, and continue to deliver the consistently diverse array of music for which the Grog has become famous. Though it is a hectic and unpredictable business, Blackman is clearly satisfied, and said, “I could think of worse jobs to have.”
James Helmswoth is student at Oberlin College and a Heights Observer intern.