DONATO’S BASEMENT: MY SECOND HOME
Throughout my lifetime there has always been a few things that have always been there; my mom, ninja turtles, baseball, and music. And all four of those are very important to me and they are also connected (thanks mom). The one that stands out the most besides my mom is music. That has and always will be part of who I am. However, there is a certain part of music that really stands out to me, one aspect that I truly love, and that is concerts. I bet some of you knew that. It appears to be one of the few things in this world I can hold a conversation about.
6/14/01 is when this truly started for me. That was the date I saw Thursday for the first time. It was home in Valdosta, Ga. The venue was the Red Room. It was a tiny place, smaller than Donatos even, if you can imagine that. After that night I made sure to attend the shows I could at the Red Room. I saw some good shows there. A few months later the venue closed, and I was heartbroken. However, my pain didn’t last long, maybe a few weeks later a new venue popped up called 1-UP. This was the venue where I truly feel in love with venue. Much like Red Room before it, it was a small venue. It was above a hip-hop club, so on any give Friday or Saturday night you would punk/emo/hardcore kids in the same building with people that came to just dance, let me tell you it made for some interesting bathroom conversations. Much like now with Donatos, I saw majority of my shows at 1-UP. I saw bands such as Against Me, Darkest Hour, Evergreen Terrace, Codeseven, Every Time I Die, and a little band called My Chemical Romance there and so many others. I lived for shows there. There was no better feeling to me at that time.
The year is 2014 and I’m living in Columbus, OH. This is my second go in this great city. And at this rate I’m going to mostly promowest shows or shows at KOBO(RIP). Then something happened that summer, John Rausch and Jacob Bialosky, Fake Moon Promotions, started having shows at a Donato’s Basement on campus. What a great idea I thought, Pop-punk shows in the basement of a pizza shop. (60% of the shows I attend are pop-punk) I do however remember been a little apprehensive at first, as I didn’t know anyone yet. Over the next few months I attended shows there more and more and started to see some regular faces, which was nice. One of those faces was Ryan Johnston, who is hands down one of the biggest supporters of the local pop-punk scene and Donato’s Basement. I like to think he is sort of a welcome committee for touring bands that play there. As he takes the time to chat with them and make them feel welcome. I have heard on more than one occasion bands tell him it’s fans like him that makes what they do worth it.
Over the next few years my number of shows there increased and it slowly became my second home. Something I hadn’t felt since the days of 1-UP back home. I’m not the only one that feels this. Cynthia Flores who started out as a show goer, who now works for BravoArtist and can be found at the door of most Donatos Shows had this to say, “Donatos is my second home. Without it I wouldn’t have discovered my favorite bands or met the people I consider my closet friends. It’s a hidden gem that everyone should know about.” I can say that over the last year or, so Cynthia has become part of this venue and shows that she isn’t working or attending just don’t feel right. Skylar McEntire also says it’s home, “So Donatos. The first show I ever played there was with my dudes in Sleepjacket. Two bands and a few years later and it’s still a staple venue for this scene in the city. Some of the most fun shows I’ve ever played have been here and at Double Happiness. With Double Happiness closing its doors, this definitely seems like home now.”
There are a small group of people, myself included that like to call Donatos The Pizza Dungeon. Well I also like to think of it as a pop-punk Cheers. (for those of you that don’t know, Cheers was a TV show about a bar and its regulars) Part of that feel comes from Seth Mendenhall, the bartender there. However, that started with Zainab Al-Firdaus, the bartender before Seth. They both did/do an amazing job of taking care of the concertgoers. Justine Paige who is a regular there had this to say, “I love Donato’s Basement! I could go on forever. It’s my absolute favorite venue in Columbus. I’m not sure what it is about it but it’s intimate! Great deals on drinks. Staff is always great! I am always up to go to a show there.”
In the four years that I have being attending shows at Donatos, I’ve seen some of my favorite shows there. The first time I saw Knockout Kid was there and that show turned out to be my show of 2016. On that same show was Action/Adventure, Southpaw and locals, Heroes Like Villains, who always bring the heat at Pizza Dungeon shows. So, if you are looking for a reason to come out to the benefit show on Saturday, there you go. Action/Adventure has become one of my favorite bands since that show and Southpaw recently was just in Columbus opening the Sleeping with Sirens Tour. Donatos has seen it’s fair share of bands go on to bigger things. Bearings played a show there early summer in 2017 and they returned late summer signed to Pure Noise and opening the State Champs tour. Hot Mulligan played a furious set back in January of 2017 and now they are getting ready to tour with Knuckle Puck. One of my favorite shows was Like Pacific back in 2015. They were maybe 10 people there. ARE YOU KIDDING!!!!! You folks missed out. We will never se them in a setting that small again. I’ve also seen Many Rooms there, whom in the past few weeks has been covered by NPR, Stereogum, and others. This is going to be her year. That’s one of the aspects I love about small venues, you never now who you are going to see and where they are going to go. You just might see the next big thing.
Not only touring bands but the locals that play there are some of the best and are constantly growing, be it Absolute Hero, We Are the Movies, Bear Your Cross, You Vs Yesterday, Overgrow, Absinthe Father, and so many more. I truly could keep listing bands. The point is this, Columbus has a great local scene and these acts have an awesome all ages venue in which to play. Even out of towners love this venue, Emily Rose Alderman, A college student at Bowling Green regularly make trips to Columbus to see shows. Some would say she is a Heroes Like Villains super fan, but I beg to differ, lol. Just Kidding. She really is. Not only is she coming to the benefit show, but she is coming back the next day for a show there as well. Anyways this is what she has to say, “I think what I like most about donatos basement is the energy of the shows. With other venues, the crowd can feel a little distant, but I’ve made more friends in the crowd of donatos shows than I have at any other venue. Everyone just gets super into the experience of the concert and it makes the memories that much better”. Then there is Katie Whalen from Cincy whom has also became a fan of the Columbus scene. She can be spotted up front often. Katie offers this, “Donato’s Pizza Basement is my favorite place to catch up-and-coming bands in Columbus. It’s the perfect size, has a great atmosphere, and you can’t beat the drink specials. Plus, I love the fact that you can get food there and you don’t even have to go upstairs to get it.”
It’s crazy the amount of time I have spent at this venue over the past few years and when John Rausch first mentioned he wanted to do a benefit show to improve it I was instantly excited about it. This is more than just a venue to so many people, so if we can make it better, then we should. Over the last four years I have put my blood, sweat and tears into this place, so you can bet I’m not done. I’ll probably shed a few tears on Saturday and if I go hard enough in the pit I may bleed, who knows. So, I hope to see some of you this Saturday. I’ll be the guy screaming and losing his shit all night to every band.
In closing I want to thank John Rausch for putting this show on. You are the man!!!! Keep doing what you do, and we’ll keep coming out. The same goes for anyone that books there. This is a great venue, keep booking there people. Also, a huge thanks to the bands playing this benefit show on Saturday; Heroes Like Villains, We Are the Movies, Undergrads, Life in Idle, and Causeways, all of you are amazing and I can’t wait to throw down with all of you. Let’s make this a night to remember.
And if you can’t make it out, you can contribute to the gofundme page. https://www.gofundme.com/drnde5