Chicago rockers share their Mutiny memories, foggy and otherwise | Bleader

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Chicago rockers share their Mutiny memories, foggy and otherwise

Posted By on 12.12.18 at 06:00 AM

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click to enlarge The Indignants bomb the Mutiny with bags of flour on December 14, 2001. - CHRIS ANDERSON
  • Chris Anderson
  • The Indignants bomb the Mutiny with bags of flour on December 14, 2001.

"Once one of my door guys said, 'The greatest thing about the Mutiny is that anyone can play here,'" says Mutiny owner Ed Mroz. "'The worst thing about the Mutiny is that anyone can play here.'"

Mroz opened the Logan Square dive bar in 1990, and by the end of 1996 he'd started hosting shows and events. But it wasn't till Halloween 1998 that the Mutiny solidified its status as a punk-rock hot spot. "Seth [Skundrik] of the Nerves told me that he was going to put on the most unbelievable Halloween show you've ever seen of your life," Mroz says. "It was spectacular." That night, the Nerves and fellow Chicago rock-scene staples Grand Theft Auto and Gaza Strippers kicked off a 20-year run of loud music and bad behavior at the venue.

Delightfully dark and charmingly filthy, the Mutiny had a lawless energy that was a big part of what turned people into regulars. I very specifically remember my first trip there: I got in with a fake ID (sorry, mom), and everyone I was with warned me not to drink the tap beer. "They don't clean the lines," a friend told me. "You'll just get sick." Everyone laughed about it. Everyone kept coming back.

Even Mroz himself seemed to revel in the bar's reputation for unhinged debauchery, and it's become the overarching theme to pretty much everyone's Mutiny memories. Local poster artist Josh Davis says he let a bartender punch him in the face for free drinks and sneaked in an underage friend inside the road case for a bass drum.

"I remember at a (Lone) Wolf & Cub show there, someone was just tearing track lighting down from the ceiling," says artist and musician Ryan Duggan. Destroying part or all of the Mutiny's ceiling became something of a tradition—at a show there I played with the Catburglars more than a decade ago, in the middle of a song I saw someone pull down a drop-ceiling tile and take a bite out of it. Until last Friday, Mroz was selling off the remaining ceiling tiles as keepsakes.

click to enlarge Just another day for the Mutiny’s long-suffering ceiling. That’s Brian Costello and Chris Ilth of the Functional Blackouts. - ROB KARLIC
  • Rob Karlic
  • Just another day for the Mutiny’s long-suffering ceiling. That’s Brian Costello and Chris Ilth of the Functional Blackouts.

"The Mutiny really has a pretty compelling legend," says my Catburglars bandmate Mike Conway. "Nobody ever wanted to go there or play there, but everyone is obsessed with it."

On October 12—Mroz's 68th birthday—state regulators came into the bar and shut it down. Past-due bills had been piling up while Mroz battled prostate cancer, and he'd failed to keep his licenses up to date, something he admits is "somewhat my fault."

"I told them to come back on Monday," he said. "But they wouldn't. I just put my head down on the bar." At first Mroz framed the closure as temporary, but on November 29 he admitted the bar was done for.

Mroz is clearly bummed, but he's also proud of all the memories (no matter how foggy) he helped create for the Chicago music community. "Every day that someone enjoyed their show, whether they made it or didn't make it, was great for me," he says. "Seeing these kids come in and be happy and do their show—it was exciting."

The Mutiny wasn't all about blackout drunks, smashed ceilings, and the disturbingly huge urinal in the men's room. Many regulars found a cozy community at this one-of-a-kind dump, and it will be sorely missed in a Logan Square full of high-rises and cocktail bars.

click to enlarge Jason Gagovski plays with Sweet Cobra at the Mutiny in 2006. - NERVOUS JAY
  • Nervous Jay
  • Jason Gagovski plays with Sweet Cobra at the Mutiny in 2006.

Jason Gagovski, drummer in Sweet Cobra One of the first things that sticks out in my memory about the Mutiny is the smell upon walking through the door. Booze, sweat, mildew, the giant urinals—I'm not saying it's bad, it's just part of the experience there. I'm sure it's been said before, but the venue was pretty much a dive bar up front that transformed into a basement-show vibe once you moved to the back, past the pool tables. For us, most shows we played there were some kind of special event—a birthday party, a benefit, or a last-minute show that turned into a rager.

Memorable events that stand out for me are the Punk Planet benefit show with Hewhocorrupts, where of course things got rowdy and ceiling tiles were taken out, and the time our guitar player's godmother got asked to leave for getting in the owner's face when he wouldn't let her back in after a smoke break because it was at capacity. We always had a blast playing there, and thinking back now, most nights turned into these iconic memories, and not just another typical show. In my mind the Mutiny was this place that would always exist, so it's sad to see it go, but it's really all about the people we shared those nights with—friends that are still with us, and others that have moved on.


Ryan Duggan, artist
The first time I set foot in the Mutiny would have been early 2005. I was living in Lakeview then, slowly figuring out that I needed to move west, where the weirdos were. After I moved to Logan Square that fall, you could find me at the Mutiny every Monday getting sloshed on half-price mini pitchers of Old Style with friends. It smelled like a bus station and the flat beer gave you headaches, but the regulars didn't mind us too much.

I'm pretty sure the first show I played there was with a short-lived thrash band I was in called Skullzone in 2007. I remember shows there getting so hot and the PA was terrible, but it was always so much fun. It felt like a house show, in that you expected at some point the cops would show up and deem the whole thing illegal.

I have many foggy "post-Mutiny" tales of crashing my bicycle into a snowbank or running down Fullerton with an ill-gotten Christmas tree I could get into, but I'll spare you. I don't remember everything from that bar, but what I do I won't soon forget.

Mike Conway, front man of the Catburglars Are there any actual memories of the Mutiny? If every single person in the bar is blackout drunk, did a show really happen? A band I was in played a record-release show there, and almost every record sold didn't survive the night. If anyone cared about us, that would've been a pretty collectible seven-inch. But we were the kind of band that played the Mutiny.

I would wake up the next day and text my bandmates things like, "Was there a guy eating ceiling tiles during our set last night?" It's probably for the best that I don't remember too much. Also, did anyone else notice it smelled worse in there after the smoking ban?


Michael Perkins, former Mutiny sound engineer I worked at the Mutiny starting in the fall of 2004 and up until the summer of 2012. I started working there just out of necessity on the part of the bar. I showed up one night to record my friend's band and there wasn't a sound man. Ed asked me if I knew how to work the soundboard, and I said yes. He said, "Knock yourself out, kid," and I went to work. I didn't make the speakers feed back at all, so Ed must've thought I knew I was doing and asked me to come back the next night. After that I worked every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday show at that bar, and it was awesome.

I think the best thing about working there was just not knowing what I was walking into on any given night. You'd have all sorts of bands from all different walks of life. Bands of kids from the suburbs, bands of kids from DePaul, really weird one-off bands of people that lived in the city their whole lives. One day you'd walk in, it would be the Fuck Around Kids, the next it would be the Hamburglars.

I remember on one occasion there was a band that had women suspended by hooks on both sides of the stage while two guys were running power tools and using them as percussion instruments and shooting sparks all over the place—I thought for sure the bar was gonna burn down that night. One time Ed had [Misfits drummer] Dr. Chud come in from out of town to play a show on Halloween—he was bragging about it for a month, saying that there'd be a line out the door, but at the end of the day, when the band showed up to play, there was literally no one in the bar. That's just the way it was. You never knew where the night would go.

click to enlarge The Soda Pop Kids at the Mutiny in 2006 - CHRIS ANDERSON
  • Chris Anderson
  • The Soda Pop Kids at the Mutiny in 2006

The regulars were crazy too—shift drinkers, old crust punks, weird loners, all types of crazy people. The shift drinkers were the ones who taught me the beauty of Malört, and it's been my shot of choice ever since. I'll never forget guessing this one girl's sign at the bar—she was so impressed, she ended up making out with me in the phone booth for 20 minutes. That was a great night! I've seen knife fights and full-on bar brawls. Believe me, you haven't lived until you've seen a whole bar of punks beating the piss out of each other, only to have it get broken up by the CPD. Regardless, it was just another night at the Mutiny. It's a great place, and I'll miss it . . . but I won't miss the smell of that friggin' urinal. Yeesh!

Adam Mohundro, bassist and vocalist in Tinkerbelles I took my dad to the Mutiny for the first time when I was 27. As we walked up to its doors, a drunk man, sloppy and sloshed, stumbled down the sidewalk with a bunch of dirty white sheets and white tarps draped on his back and shoulders. "What the hell?" My dad looked bewildered.

"Dad! You gotta piss in the urinal here!" was a real sentence that came out of my adult face as we walked in. At 21, he had introduced me to the L&L on Clark, part of his old stomping ground back in the early 80s, so I thought he would love my Logan counterpart. I'd held my bladder for hours waiting to rush past that faded shoe-polish-white "bands wanted" sign for another chance to help melt the mountain of ice encased in a double-wide urinal stretching to the floor that weighed as much as a Batman backpack of barbells. Unfortunately my dad doesn’t believe "ice melting" should be an Olympic sport as much as his son does, but like his son, he loved his "personal pitcher" of Old Style.

click to enlarge Chris Ilth of the Functional Blackouts at the Mutiny in 2002 - CHRIS ANDERSON
  • Chris Anderson
  • Chris Ilth of the Functional Blackouts at the Mutiny in 2002

At the time my friend's girlfriend worked there and would get us so many drinks our brains would turn inside-out. Still pickled from those days, I vaguely remember cheers-ing my 32-ounce Jack and Coke as we saluted the crushed-velvet picture of a sailor with an underlying quote, "Brains never did amount to shit."

Playing through a few games of pool, we laughed at the ceiling tiles painted with everything ranging from the apocalypse, politics, and vaginas until I accidentally shot the eight-ball off the table and Ed proceeded to call me a "jagbag." (No hard feelings.) My dad laughed as we continued to listen to Ed blame the smoking ban on everything in the city, including the lack of customers on that Saturday night. The place was actually packed, but it didn't matter. Ed and the Mutiny were special and that's why I took my dad there. The Mutiny was a great neon light laughing in the face of its own chaotic smoldering dumpster fire. I'm going to miss its flame.


Mark McKenzie, aka Mac Blackout of the Functional Blackouts and Daily Void The Functional Blackouts began our art-damaged rock 'n' roll terror spree in 2001. It was a different time, when expressing one's self onstage in primal ways was considered art and at times highly relatable in spirit. We first heard about the Mutiny from friends. They told of a lawless dreamland where bands could do whatever they wanted, a "wreck" center of sorts where our restless hearts and feral spirits could feel at home. We soon booked what was probably our third show there, and it quickly became our main hangout and favorite place to play.

Throughout the early 2000s, shows were packed. It was smoky, raw, and loud as hell. Ed, the owner, had all of our bands on the jukebox. On nights we played, each band member was given three free 24-ounce pitchers of beer or mixed drinks. This led to some seriously wild shows.

After one Functional Blackouts show, the entire ceiling was torn down. Another night the Indignants broke open huge bags of flour, blinding the audience, filling the bar with clouds, and leaving the floor covered in a flour/beer paste mixture. Many other bands played naked, ran screaming on top of the bar, puked, and got into the occasional fight. We would raid the stage between bands and play "jazz," which really pissed Ed off. We were kind of banned for a while, but I saw Ed at the gas station and he gave me a disappointed fatherly look. I came back to apologize and he welcomed us back with open arms.

click to enlarge KK Rampage at the Mutiny in 2005 - CHRIS ANDERSON
  • Chris Anderson
  • KK Rampage at the Mutiny in 2005

The Mutiny was much more than the home of the "World's Largest Urinal." It was the only place we could truly let off steam, express ourselves in raw, primal performance, laugh, and enjoy the music scene that we made. The Chicago punk scene of the aughts was intense, creative rock 'n' roll at its finest and the Mutiny will always be remembered as its home. Thanks, Ed!

Meg McDuff, guitarist and singer for Montrose Man and Bleach Party If you have memories of the Mutiny, were you really at the Mutiny?

About ten years ago my band at the time, Bone Tosser, played a rowdy show, got real shitty off of Long Island mini pitchers, and I left my car parked out front overnight. My drummer dropped me at my car in the morning, and once in the driver's seat I realized, "Fuck, I'm about to blow chunks." Frantically searched the car for a container to zonk in, spot fancy Christmas bag with gift for mother in it from a friend (Frango mints, I recall), empty contents, and fill festive bag with two pounds of party-time remnants. Open passenger door and neatly set bag on snowy sidewalk. I can't even imagine the reaction of the person who looked inside that sparkly gift bag. Those mints sure came in handy, though.


Kevin Warwick, former Reader staffer If I remember right, it was a weird warm night in early 2016 when I got a text from Reader music editor Philip Montoro asking if I was nearby the Mutiny. He said it had caught fire and wondered if I could drive by to see what was up. Because I was actually in a car just about five minutes from there—and because I was actually still on staff at the Reader then—I figured it was my duty to at least roll by.

When I pulled up to the front door on Western, it was propped wide open and I could see a pair of dudes—total Mutiny regulars—nursing beers at the bar. There was no sign of a fire. No smoke at all. So I got out and went in and found Ed milling around by the front.

"I heard there was a fire here tonight," I told him. "Doesn't look like it."

"No, there was," he said. "In the back office. Come on, I'll show you."

Sure enough, the back office behind the stage was a charred mess. Ed explained to me what had happened and how it had been essentially contained, but saw that I was more confused by the fact that the bar was still open than by the fact that it had actually caught fire. Which in turn made him confused about why he would close the bar if it wasn't still on fire.

It was a perfect Mutiny moment.

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