What Columbus Means To Me: My History In Ohio's Biggest City - by Jeremy Porter

Jeremy Porter and The Tucos will be performing at the Rumba Cafe in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, January 19th. Doors 7 pm. Jeremy and the band are on at 8 pm. Colin Gawel and the Bowlers follow. FREE SHOW.

Growing up in northern Michigan, far from Ann Arbor and that great rivalry, Columbus wasn’t even on my radar. We knew about Cincinnati because of WKRP and the stampede at that Who concert, we knew Toledo from M*A*S*H, and we knew that Cleveland was a place, but not Columbus. Then I moved downstate in the fall of `88 and overnight Columbus was a thing to be hated, in November at least. A few years later, the guy who ran our record label turned me onto a band from there called Scrawl, who did a cover of Cheap Trick’s “High Roller” that he knew I’d like, and I’d been hearing about a band called Watershed too, that was supposedly cut from the same cloth as I was, but I didn’t pay that any mind.

October 21, 1995 I was playing in a punk band from Detroit called SlugBug. We had just come off a couple years of playing a ton of shows, a couple Midwest and east coast tours, and a lineup change. We weren’t getting along all that well at the time and it was cold. We drove down to Columbus for a one-off at a place called the High Street Downunder. We thought it had to be a cool place because Scrawl had recently played there. Maybe it was, but you can’t even find it on Google today. I remember I was under the weather, and after load-in I had to go #2 (sorry, TMI) and there was NO WAY I was doing that in the disgusting men’s room, so our bass player’s girlfriend stood watch outside of the much more presentable ladies room for me. If memory serves, we played to a decent crowd but didn’t get paid, the other bands weren’t very nice, and it was a long, cold, depressing drive home though the frozen Ohio night.

Stones 1997 Columbus Poster

September 27, 1997 I became obsessed with Keith Richards and The Stones in the late `80s and by `97 I was all in. I bought tickets in Ann Arbor, but for the Columbus show. I didn’t have to wait on line, because the Detroit show’s tickets had gone on sale an hour earlier. Seventh row center, right between Keith and Mick. I remember the marquee at Taco Bell on High Street said “Free Taco for Mick Jagger” and I loved that. I was feeling great as my wife and I walked across campus into the Horseshoe, and all the way down front. It was a beautiful evening and they were the best band on the planet that night.

November 9, 2003 I was playing in a powerpop band called The OffRamps. We got added to a show at Small’s in Hamtramck, MI being promoted by my friend Brian, supporting a band I really liked from Texas called Grand Champeen. Brian’s band Porchsleeper was playing too, but it was a Sunday night, so it was bound to be a disaster. Still, I was happy to play with both of those bands. A few days before the show a band I’d seen at The Elbow Room in Ypsilanti a couple of times called Two Cow Garage was added to the bill. That really annoyed me. I didn’t really like them much, and I hated the idea of a fourth act being added to a Sunday night show. But Brian said it was kind of a done deal because they were touring with Grand Champeen, so I went along with it….but they were playing first, dammit! After soundcheck their bass player went out of his way to sit next to me at the bar, extend his hand, and introduce himself as Shane. “Goddamnit,” I said to myself, “they’re really nice dudes too.” That was equally annoying. I had to begrudgingly admit that they were good that night, better than I’d given them credit for. Channing, the singer for Grand Champeen, was sick as hell, there was no one there, and it was otherwise a fairly miserable night. A few months later, Two Cow Garage released their second record, The Wall Against Our Back, and I got completely sucked in by the stripped-down production and balls-out execution of amazing songs that just completely resonated with where my musical mindset was at the time.

They’ve put out better records since, but I still have a soft spot for that one, and take some joy in prodding them even today to pull out one of those tunes occasionally (they never do). Over the next 16 years, I’d go see them when they came within an hour of Detroit, eventually weaseling my way onto most of their Detroit shows, and becoming dear friends with Micah and Shane (and Murph, Vanessa, Todd, George, and Jay), and I just think...God I was an asshole back in Hamtramck that November.

Hitless Wonder - A Life in Minor League Rock And Roll

June 28, 2012 For a few years I wrote for a now-defunct Detroit blog called Motor City Rocks. I was asked by a friend, Sue Summers, to do a book review for a new book by Watershed’s bassist Joe Oestreich. Sue was an early champion of my music around these parts, she knew Watershed early on, and she’d been telling me I need to hook up with those guys since I’d met her in 1990. The book really connected. The opening scene takes place in Small’s (the same bar we played at with Two Cow Garage nine years earlier), one dude is playing Cheap Trick deep cuts on the jukebox while another is washing down Percocets with PBR. Next thing I know, the protagonist is pulling giant bong hits with the guy who was currently producing our first record at the time. To say the book hit home is an understatement. So on this night, June 28, 2012, Watershed was playing Small’s (same bar, again) after a book reading. I couldn’t make the book reading, but I made the show, met Joe for the first (and only) time, and enjoyed the set.

Tucos Tree Bar Poster - April 4, 2013

April 4, 2013 Jeremy Porter and The Tucos play Columbus for the first time, at The Tree Bar, a cool little place down a scary, dark alley that looks more like back-woods Mississippi than the middle of Ohio’s biggest city. I don’t remember much about that night, but I remember Roni was our bartender and had a heavy hand. I know that we’ve played there a bunch and none of the shows were amazing but they were all fun, and there were always good people around.

February 26, 2014 The Tucos opened the first night of Columbus-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Lydia Loveless’ tour for her album Somewhere Else at a sold-out, converted Ponderosa restaurant in Pontiac, MI. Trust me when I say that “The Tucos” and “sold-out” rarely appear in the same sentence, plus I was completely mesmerized by that record, so it was a big deal for us. I said hi to Lydia and we talked about Shane and Micah for a minute, but I kinda hit it off with her guitarist Todd May, who was digging our set, and hit it off even more with her bassist Ben, who was selling merch next to us at the end of the night. We’d play with her again in 2016, when she was supporting Real (my #1 record of this decade so far), again up in Pontiac, and I’ve been completely mentally immersed in her amazing music for five years now.


July 14, 2015 Somehow I was asked to play guitar and lend some backups on two songs Watershed had recorded but not finished for a summer single. On this day I drove out to The Loft in Saline, Michigan (where they’ve done most of their recording) to add my parts over their songs. I came prepared, and Tim Patalan (reference the bong hits above) seemed excited as we tracked. I tried to act cool, but I was just beside myself to do it. The songs, “Best Worst Night” and “Hey Lydia” happen to be my favorite songs they’ve ever done, but I am biased. Damn, that was fun.

July 21, 2015 I was surprised to wake to an email from Colin Gawel - Watershed’s singer/songwriter/guitarist - thanking me for playing on the songs (I’d had no direct contact with the band about the session, and I hadn’t met Colin yet) and complimenting me on my work. I was still in awe that they’d asked, and to this day I’m super proud of it.


September 17, 2015 Another sparsely attended but heavily imbibed show at Tree Bar on the 17th, memorable only because Two Cow’s then drummer Murph and his girlfriend Erin were there.  We traded war stories with him all night, and Erin and I bonded over our love of hair metal, and I told her all about the Saxon concert Gabe and I had just attended two nights prior in Detroit. She requested a W.A.S.P. song during our set, which sadly we couldn’t deliver, and I may or may not have promised to learn “Love Machine next time through. (Please don’t hold me to it this time!)


September 18, 2015 The next morning The Tucos stopped at Colin’s Coffee for a triple espresso on our way to Louisville. We traded coffees for a record, had a good long chat, mostly about Cheap Trick, and have since become good friends, albeit mostly through email, text, and rock & roll. After that we stopped at The Starliner Diner in Hilliard, strongly suggested by Murph, and that’s been a priority every single time since. Possibly my favorite breakfast spot on Earth.


March 11, 2016 This was the last time we played Columbus, at The Tree Bar, to about five people. We were on a run with a band from Lexington and a band from Cincinnati and I don’t think there was a local on the bill. We ate at a nearby sandwich shop before the show. Our then-bassist Patty and I got tomatoes on ours, drummer Gabe didn’t. Patty and I would spend the next 16 hours climbing over each other in and out of the bathroom of that horrible Motel 6 room. Goddamn tomatoes.

September 7, 2016 My first article for Pencilstorm, the Columbus-based blog that Colin runs, was published. It was a review of a fairly forgettable Ace Frehley concert in the parking lot of a Harley dealer in suburban Detroit. I’ve since written a bunch for the blog, participated in a KISS Non-Makeup-Era Song fantasy album draft, gotten photo passes for a Steve Earle concert, typed up a Grant Hart obituary, and more. It’s a thrill to be on the roster.


December 9, 2017 I played a small, sold-out solo acoustic show with Two Cow Garage’s Micah Schnabel and his partner Vanessa Jean Speckman’s pop-up art show at the AirB&B Loft above PJs Lager House in Corktown, Detroit. We couldn’t find a venue worth doing, and PJ saved the day with a great idea. It’s the only show they’ve had up there, and was the perfect setting. I wanted to bring my little amp up but Micah talked me out of it, and it was the right call. No amps, no PA. Solo acoustic shows can be hit or miss, to put it generously. This was a special night and I was so happy to be a part of it. (photo credit: Marlissa Shwarz, in front of Vanessa Jean Speckman art on the door to the Claddagh Loft at PJ’s Lager House, Detroit, 12/9/2017.)

This coming Saturday, January 19, 2019, we are playing at the Rumba Cafe with Colin Gawel & The League Bowlers. We are on at 8 sharp and it’s pay what you want. That means it’s cheap and you can go to bed early. It’s our first show with our new bass player Bob, who’s never been to Columbus before. I can’t wait for him to meet you all and take him to the Starliner Diner for breakfast. We’ll be avoiding tomatoes. Come and make this our best Columbus show yet. I’ve paid my dues here. Xo

Jeremy Porter lives near Detroit and fronts the rock and roll band Jeremy Porter And The Tucos.

Follow them on Facebook to read his road blog about their adventures on the dive-bar circuit.  

Twitter: @jeremyportermi | Instagram: @onetogive & @jeremyportermusic