One more song
Alumni say musical goodbye to memorable gathering place
By Stephen McKean
FRONT ROOM, Nov. 11, 2006 -- In between classes, you went there to study. You went there for caffeine. You went there to pretend to read the Iliad. You looked furtively at the girl across the room (the one actually reading the Iliad). And at night, you went there for music.
But with the opening of the new Baker University Center less than two months away, it's time to say goodbye to our beloved Front Room, where we crammed for so many exams, where we made so many friends.
But if there's anything Athenians and Ohio University alumni do well, it's throw a good farewell party -- and that they did. Those old friends were out in full force at the Front Room this past Saturday night, celebrating a singular place that’s brought so many of us together through the years.
With more than a dozen musical acts, including Bruce and Gay Dalzell, The Kings of Hollywood, The Local Girls and Realbilly Jive, the Front Room Coffeehouse was -- to use a phrase one hears a lot of late -- a thumpin'.
There was quite a lot of nostalgia.
"It was where you came to see what was happening," says Mimi Hart, BB '71, MA '91. "It was the central meeting place. All your friends would be there, and you could count on that."
Hart, a member of the famed Local Girls and an assistant professor with the English department, says much of the room's musical importance can be attributed to the dedication of Bruce Dalzell, the host of open stages at the Front Room since 1990. "Bruce should get a MacArthur Grant for organizing music in this community," she says.
Echoing a sentiment of most alumni who have known the Front Room -- or its predecessor, the Frontier Room -- Dalzell says, "I'm deeply attached to that room, and I will hate going. I think there's a lot of warmth there, a lot of memories stuck to those walls."
In fact, there are memories actually stuck to those walls. Concert posters featuring Arlo Guthrie, Sonny Terry and other entertainers have enriched the décor for years.
Saturday night's master of ceremonies, Billy Rhinehardt, even mentioned that McCoy Tyner once played that beat-up old piano in the corner that so many of us have plunked around on over the years.
All is not lost, however. The new Baker Center will feature a new Front Room, where Dalzell will continue to hold open stages on Friday nights. Its rich, dark wood and central fireplace are reminiscent of its cherished namesake. And the hope is that generations of Bobcats to come will make use of it to foster their friendships and their musicianship.
One thing's for sure. Someone's going to be reading the Iliad there. And someone else won't be.
Stephen McKean, BA '98, is a music lover and freelance writer based in Athens.
To listen to songs from "The Last Hurrah," click on the links below:
The Princes of Hollywood, "Late September"
J.D. Hutchison, "You and the World Outside"
Tony Xenos, "R.E.M. Poster Song"
Adam Remnant, "Undergrad"
Music samples courtesy of the artists and Manasseh Records.