arts   |   music

COLUMN: Safe, all-ages music venues in Bloomington are hard to come by


Guests gather for the Chocolate Prom on Feb. 1, 2013, at Rhino's Youth Center. The event, which was part of The Week of Chocolate 2013, was organized to benefit the center. IDS file photo Buy Photos

An album on the Facebook page The Bloomingtonian titled “Requiem for Rhino’s” was posted on March 8 and immediately met with devastated laments in the comments.

According to the post, the original Rhino’s All Ages Club building has been set to be demolished to make way for a new set of luxury apartments. Although Indiana Public Media reported Rhino’s will occupy a commercial space on the apartment’s ground floor, residing beneath apartments has consequences for a live music venue.

The loss of the original building is the newest example of Bloomington’s rapidly changing social landscape that caters to affluent students while leaving Bloomington residents and their needs behind. In this case, the effect will be felt on Bloomington’s youth music scene.

What is worth noting is that the loss of the original Rhino’s All Ages Club building means music venues in Bloomington accessible to teenagers are that much harder to find.

Other venues that feature similar soundscapes, such as The Blockhouse Bar and The Bluebird, are 21-plus venues. While The Bishop Bar oftentimes hosts 18-plus shows, these shows remain inaccessible for local Bloomington teens who once found a home at Rhino’s.

The argument might arise that there is still an active youth-run house show scene in Bloomington, but I would dispute that these spaces do not welcome nor keep teenagers safe.

Rhino’s offered a safe, inclusive space that explicitly banned drugs and alcohol. Bloomington house shows are arguably run by and for college-aged students.

Drinking and drug use is rampant within the Bloomington house show community. Especially since most shows are now massive, public Facebook events with more than 300 attendees and little to no barrier to entry, it’s not uncommon for shows to end hours early since they are inevitably shut down by the police.

Even shows with the intention to be a safe space this past spring provided jungle juice and ended with an order for people to evacuate from police. The Bloomington student-run shows are not a replacement for the sanctuary Rhino’s provided for teens.

Rhino’s replanning marks the end of an inclusive music scene for teens, but the impact and significance of the venue hopefully will not be forgotten. Seminal California punk band Agent Orange, '90s punk-rockers Against Me!, and Chicago rapper Noname have all graced Rhino’s stage.

Local music created by teens will suffer the hardest. Album release shows and performances by and for teens were common in Rhino’s active days. Without the stage, space and community support, there is no venue focused on showcasing youth-made art.

Creating a house show network that welcomes younger musicians and music fans might be the only way to support Bloomington youth-made music and would provide diversity to the lineups that has not been present since spring 2018.

To continue Rhino’s legacy and effort to support youth music-making, there is a question those active in the house show scene need to answer.

Does providing alcohol and condoning drug use cultivate an inclusive music scene? Who is being left out?

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