Chicago has its share of music venues. Some are grand, palatial theaters, with sconces and chandeliers, and some are back alley dives with Pabst Blue Ribbon and sweaty walls. The rock and punk scene in Chicago is as vibrant and colorful as ever, with a host of young, angry, punk rockers ready to blow you right out of your stove-pipe Levis. These youngsters, looking for venues to showcase their latent hormonal compunctions, thrive in the underworld of house parties, art school lofts, and seedy dive joints.
One such dive joint is Ronny’s Bar on California Ave. in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. For a few years now, Ronny’s Bar has been hosting local talent in its backroom, which is really nothing more than a transmogrified garage with drywall and a concrete floor. If you find yourself engaging in a little pre-show inebriation, Ronny’s Bar is easy to miss. If it wasn’t for the handful of young gents with Conan the Barbarian haircuts smoking outside, Ronny’s would be completely hidden among the weeds and car repair shops that line the dank street.
Upon entering Ronny’s you're struck with the sense that something is terribly wrong. The local patrons, if not fixated by the blurry TV screen or a deadly game of pool, will often give the rock and roll punks a good once over upon entering. The dim, yellow-green lighting gives everyone in the bar a sickly glow, reminiscent of a George A. Romero film. There is also the pungent odor of cigarette smoke, whisky, and hot dogs that permeates everything in the bar. That being said, the bar at Ronny’s is merely a gauntlet to the backroom’s musical delights. Ronny’s ‘music room’ consists of drywall, a carpet, a recycled tiki-bar, a few stools, a card table and a junior high school PA system. The room has a real Lost Highway meets the Olsen Twins vibe that some music lovers might find appealing. There is no sound system at Ronny’s. All the bands play through their amps and vocals are played through the PA system. The crowd is a mixed bag of hipster kids, frightening locals, drunken suburban girls, and a smattering of music lovers. The men’s room is reminiscent of Satan’s arm pit, and the walls of the cramped room are lined with urine stains and flattened Pabst cans. The men's room has very little running water and there is often a roach floating in the sink, as if it had killed itself rather than listen to another handkerchief sporting gutter punk band blather on about ‘corporate America’. The bar tenders are of the bastard variety, and even though they post adorable pictures of their moon faced kids behind the bar, they would just as soon shank you and leave you bleeding in the alley as they would serve you a Heineken.
If angst filled punk, roaches, maladjusted bartenders, and pissing on the floor are what you crave, maybe it's time to visit the musical Hieronymus Bosch painting that is Ronny’s Bar and Center for the Performing Arts.
Welcome to Hell.
2101 N. California Ave