Updated: Jan 18, 2022
One of my favorite things to checkout at any punk venue, or hell any public space from a restaurant to a museum, is the bathrooms. I am a former teacher, and my husband jokes that a good bathroom is on my grading rubric when I evaluate a music venue and it’s true. I will judge every single venue I go to by its bathroom.
Bathrooms are scared places, especially for girls, gays, and theys. Need to dodge the creeper that just can’t take a hint? Go to the bathroom and you’ll likely find a “date” for the night along with refuge. You’ll exchange social media handles or phone numbers by the end of the night and become lifelong friends. Need a moment to decompress? Go to the bathroom and read the graffiti. Need to discreetly warn others of a predator within the scene? Leave a message in the stall. Not getting the compliments you deserve on your stunning attire. Go to the bathroom and drop a mirror selfie on Instagram.
So, what makes a good bathroom at a venue? First and foremost, it should be sanitary but never “sterile.” Nothing makes me happier than a dive bar bathroom with a sparklingly clean porcelain throne and walls covered in art and/or a mosaic of graffiti messages accumulated across the period of months or even years. Now that I am in my 30s, the juxtaposition of pristine toilets and prolific and/or profane walls is a something that resonates with me because I like to walk the line between classy and trashy like it’s a tightrope. Yes, society might be going down the proverbial shitter, but we all deserve a safe place to do our business whether that is taking a piss or reapplying your lipstick.
A good venue will always clean their bathrooms before a show, but depending on the show and the crowd, it may or may not remain clean…but that isn’t the venue’s fault! I usually check the bathrooms as soon as I arrive at a venue for this reason. Once drinks start flowing, lines start forming and people get sloppy.
Over the next few weeks, as I wait for covid numbers to drop to a level where I feel safe attending shows again, I will be covering some the wickedly whimsical and Instagram-worthy water closets that can be found within several of my favorite venues. Many of which are the perfect backdrop for your next profile picture. So, pop a squat because it's Toilet Talk Tuesdays!
First up: THE STOOP!!!
The bathrooms at The Stoop almost flew under the radar. A good friend of mine from high school and talented local artist, Allison Kennedy, played a critical role in me checking out The Stoop. I don’t know if Allison let co-owner Matt Havranek know that I would be coming, or if me walking around with my iPhone out snapping pictures like a tourist at Niagara Falls alerted him that there was a local journalist present. But after a solid run on the half-pipe, Matt came down to welcome me. He then told me to check out the double bathroom—where you can, and I quote, “Bring your best friend to poop at the Stoop!” And to be perfectly honest, the whole conversation albeit brief was a little befuddling.
First of all, if you live in central Ohio, you have most likely seen Matt Havranek at a show. I know I have. Even if you haven’t met him, you might have some vague pre-pandemic recollection of him because Matt belongs to a rare and elusive breed of people most often referred to in conversations by others as “this one dude.” These are the salt of the earth people who add a dash of anarchy to a punk show—but in a fun, memorable way that doesn’t make others feel unsafe. For example, “This one dude brought a generator and set up a guerrilla jam session in the parking lot before the show.” Or “This one dude somehow got on stage, shotgunned a beer and did a backflip into the crowd in nothing but his underwear.”
To understand the environment that is the Stoop, you must understand that Havranek and his co-owner, Niv Naleh, are both living embodiments of anarcho-punk philosophies in their own ways, which is why the Stoop works. If you aren’t familiar with the Hilltop, you need to understand that buying an abandoned and dilapidated storefront here in hopes of restoring it and creating a communal space for skaters and punks is an inherently chaotic yet unadulterated endeavor. Just thinking about the amount of work they likely had to put into that place for it to be permissible to the public makes me want to rush out to get an extra tetanus and hepatitis shot. I don’t even want to think about what the restrooms might have looked like before their restoration.
But back to the genius that is the double toilet bathroom! I didn’t realize what a brilliant idea I until saw how it reduced lines. Basically, if you feel safe with somebody and are not shy about your body and how it functions, the double bathroom is a great option for your group as long as all parties consent. Instead of occupying both bathrooms at the same time, and thus forcing others to wait longer in line, a couple can use a single bathroom. Alternatively, a group of close friends, regardless of gender, can occupy the bathroom like they would at a large venue featuring gendered bathrooms with multiple stalls. Punk is all about creating DIY solutions to address the issues and dilemmas one encounters…like whether your bestie should ask the bassist of the previous band for their number or not. It pretty convenient to have such delicate conversations with your friends as you touch-up your makeup while they unleash the floodgates. Two birds—one stone.
In closing, I was impressed with how clean the bathrooms were (I also checked out the bathroom with a single toilet as well). It’s clear that The Stoop’s ownership put a ton of work into the restrooms and that most of their clientele is appreciative and respectful of that work. With this being a newer space, the walls and such don’t have a ton of character yet, but I am excited to see how this mostly blank canvas evolves throughout the coming years. I have a sneaking suspicion that this already Instagram-worthy bathroom might be featured on some album covers or promotional posters someday, especially as the walls take on the character imbued within the rest of the venue.
Thanks for joining me for Toilet Talk Tuesday! Don’t forget to flush, and as always, wash your hands—you filthy animal!