It was an era when New Wave was still new, punks couldn't get a gig, and kids who could drink - legally - at 18 were hungry for live music. Scorgie's filled that void. The Andrews Street club brought now-legendary bands like X, The Ramones, Lords Of The New Church, Johnny Thunders, Alex Chilton, Jim Carroll, and John Cale to town. Scorgie's also gave a venue to up-and-coming local bands like New Math, The Press Tones, The Colorblind James Experience, The Chesterfield Kings, Personal Effects, and The Bowery Boys - bands other clubs turned down. It was a vibrant scene, and it's safe to say that 1979 to 1987 in the Rochester music scene was the Scorgie's era.
Scorgie's was essentially a neighborhood bar with a good jukebox. Bands played in the basement. It was a bare-bones set up - just a bar and a stage - with the vibe, the complexity, and the diversity left up to the crowds that piled in.
Bop Shop owner Tom Kohn was one of the regulars.
"I remember going there a lot," he says. "I don't remember leaving there a lot, but I remember going."
Kohn remembered enough that the idea of a reunion concert began to percolate in his head last year. He started with a website and secured the domain name scorgies.com. Then he asked for former bar owner Don Scorgie's blessing.
"He was thrilled," Kohn says. "Thrilled. He said, 'Let's do it, let's rock. As long as I'm there for a few barley pops.'"
Paul and Peggi Dodd were members of the band Personal Effects back then, and play as part of The Margaret Explosion now. They were approached to build the website. Everything started to come together when the hundreds of posted pictures, memories, and tributes to the bar started to pour in. The deluge continues. Scorgies.com has been flooded with posts by ex-Scorgie's patrons from around the world.
"From the beginning," Kohn says, "I thought the most important thing was going to be the word, the printed word, the stories. The stories make the place."
"It was Rochester's CBGB's," he says. "It was as important as CBGB's, because it was the main hub outside New York City."
"There were a lot of unique sounds and unique bands that came out of there back then," says the man himself, Don Scorgie, who retired from the bar scene years ago and now makes a living selling cars.
"All these new bands that came through town, or that were here, got played on WITR and WRUR," he says. "And all of a sudden there's a huge market that had no place to play."
Most people you talk to blame Danny Deutsch - who now owns the bar Abilene - for initially getting national talent into the joint. Deutsch was tending bar at Scorgie's when Scorgie approached him for help
"Scorgie was booking stuff he was familiar with," says Deutsch. "He booked a steady diet of The Dadys, Liam McGee..."
Local regulars like John Mooney, Bahama Mama, and Duke Jupiter played, as well as the nationals that Deutsch brought in like John Lee Hooker, Mose Allison, and Sonny Fortune.
As Deutsch got savvier, those bands progressed to more cutting-edge stuff. "From there it went to X, The Cramps, The Ramones," he says. "This was pre-internet, pre-MySpace, but the word spread. We became known as the club in the northeast that bands wanted to play."
Week in and week out the Scorgie's schedule had Rochester bands sharing the stage with big names. And it seemed the crowd came out regardless. Scorgie's gave them a shot.
"Remember," saysPeggi Dodd, "In the late 70's there was still disco all over the place. Scorgie's was special because you could do your own material."
"We were going around town trying to get gigs at The Orange Monkey, Big Daddy's, The Penny Arcade," Paul Dodd says. "There were mostly hard rock bands at that time, and they all played covers."
"The thing that was perfect about Scorgie's was all these misfits had a place to play," Dodd continues. "The main thing about it that I thought was special was, these were people trying to be creative. They were doing their own stuff whether they could play or not."
"Playing Scorgie's was a blast," says Invisible Party's Stan "The Man" Merrell. "Everybody was pretty much open to anything. Everybody was psyched to see other people play. There were cliques, different genres, but we liked everybody."
Scorgie's became the comedy club Yuk Yuks in 1985 only to return as a live music venue again in the early 90's, closing again later that decade. Other owners tried, but by the end of the century, the place shut down for good. Some blame the drinking age change, others shifting tastes in music, and the fact that other clubs latched on to the scene that Scorgie's had forged. It remains closed to this day; a hollowed-out reminder of long nights gone by.
But for close to 10 years, Scorgie's was king of the scene.
"A lot of credit has to go to Scorgie himself," says Deutsch. "Not only did he accept this scene, he encouraged it."
"Don was a great guy and was always looking for ideas," Merrell says. "When things went great he was fantastic, buying you drinks. When things didn't go well with Don, he let you know it."
Like the time The Cramps' Lux Interior wrecked the ceiling over the stage, and Scorgie came up on stage and kicked the drum kit in.
"Yeah, everybody wants to target the crazy nights," Scorgie says. "There were good nights - way too many - besides the crazy nights." Crazy nights, like the ones Tom Kohn can't remember, when the party continued after hours somewhere else after Scorgie cleared the room, according to Paul Dodd.
"I did love the nightly ritual of him telling everyone to get the fuck out at the top of his lungs," he says.
Scorgie'sReunion w/Personal effects, New Math, The Press Tones
Friday, November 21
German House, 315-Gregory St
8 p.m. | $20 | 271-3354, scorgies.com