Nietzsche's, the long, dark Allen Street club, has been the hub of the original music scene in Buffalo for 20 years.
Since he opened the club, proprietor Joe Rubino has clung to the same vision -- that Nietzsche's would be home to an eclectic variety of music and would cater to the fans of that music, as well as the musicians who make it. He has succeeded largely by sticking to his original plan.
Walk into Nietzsche's any night of the week, and you'll hear live music. It might be something mellow and folk-based on the small, front-of-house stage located directly across from the long, well-worn bar. It might be a touring act with a local opener on the large stage in the rear of the club, blasting away through the estimable PA manned by Nietzsche's veteran Kenny Maggs.
Whatever it is, you can count on it being worth your time and attention.
Nietzsche's is a club for folks who are serious about music, to be sure, but it's far from off-putting toward first-timers. The atmosphere is casual, the drinks are reasonably priced, and the Guinness is well-poured. More often than not, admission prices for a full evening's program of live entertainment are extremely modest.
For as long as I'd like to remember, Monday evenings have been open mic night at Nietzsche's, overseen by host Mike Meldrum, head of the Buffalo Song Project. Ani DiFranco got her start playing with Meldrum at Nietzsche's on these very nights, and they continue to be wholly enjoyable, laid-back evenings centered around songs and stories.
On Fridays, things kick off at 6 p.m. with the fabled Nietzsche's happy hour, normally featuring a band on the front stage.
On the days between, the club is filled with sounds ranging from the deepest of the blues -- guitarist Joanna Connor and harp legend James Cotton, for example, have both made a point of stopping by Nietzsche's more than once a year for a good while now -- to the most adventurous of jam-band stylings.
Like the Allentown that surrounds it, the rustic charm of Nietzsche's is bohemian cool, and an artsy and open-minded demeanor pervades, much as it does in neighboring haunts such as Allen Street Hardware and the Old Pink Flamingo.
That vibe is apparent from the moment you meet longtime doorman P.J. on your way in. Stop by even relatively often, and P.J. will greet you with a hug, while Rubino gives you a nod and a smile from his perch at the corner of the bar. Call it a "Cheers" for the denizens of the independent music underground, a home away from home for folks who've given their life to music in one way or another.
Both local pub and concert club, Nietzsche's is a Buffalo landmark and, in many ways, a monument to our city's music scene.
248 Allen St.
Scene: Eclectic. Musicians and music-lovers.
Music: From acoustic folk to full-on rock.
Neighborhood: Allentown. Shabby chic.
Dress code: Anything goes.