“Iggy loved it,” LesLee Anderson recalled in a 2012 interview with City Paper. “I remember I was mopping the floor and he was standing against the bar saying, ‘This is a great rock ‘n’ roll bar—this is going to be a rocking night.'”
Iggy would be Iggy Pop, the Stooges frontman and garage rock legend, just one of many luminaries to grace the stage at Marble Bar, the iconic subterranean rock club that reigned supreme during the heydays of punk and new wave during the ’70s and ’80s. (For more on the Marble Bar’s history, read this great Brennen Jensen piece that appeared in City Paper in 2000).
Located beneath the former high-end Congress Hotel, which has since been converted to apartments, the Marble Bar also played host to the likes of Squeeze, X, the Cramps, Sonic Youth and R.E.M.
On Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, the dim subterranean space of local music legend will once again serve as a great rock ‘n’ roll bar, if just for one night, during a fundraiser held by the nonprofit Baltimore Architecture Foundation. Local indie-pop group Super City will play a set and music scene veteran and Baby’s On Fire owner David Koslowski will spin a set of bands that played the Marble, including Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Flock of Seagulls and Talking Heads, just to name a few. It will also include locals, like punk bands Reptile House and Thee Katatonix.
One of the organizers of the event, Katherine LePage, an architect at Ziger/Snead and board member of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, writes in an email that the space is “raw” but still has some of the hallmarks from both the time it served as a place to unwind for early Hollywood luminaries such as the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields and Charlie Chaplin, and its grittier rock club days.
“The main element left is the 52-foot marble bar, but there are a few other remnants from the past such as molding on the ceilings, marble stairs leading up to the lobby, mosaic tiled floors in some sections and wainscoting on some of the walls,” she writes.
Though there have been some upgrades over the years, LePage says the space has mostly remained empty and is used these days for storage.
There will be two packages for the fundraiser, which will happen Feb. 2 from 5:30-10 p.m. at 306 W. Franklin St. For $100, attendees can arrive at 5:30 p.m. and enjoy an open bar with drinks from Clavel and Union Craft Brewing, as well as food from La Cuchara. Party tickets, the other option, cost $30 and include entry at 7 p.m. with two drink tickets.
Proceeds will benefit the foundation’s educational efforts on the city’s built environment, such as Doors Open Baltimore, a weekend of behind-the-scenes access to some of Baltimore’s most architecturally significant properties.
Even if the Marble Bar sits dormant most of the year, its importance can still be seen today.
Over email, Koslowski, who has played in local bands Liquor Bike, Free Electric State and Small Apartments, among others, writes that he was a little too young for the Marble Bar, but he did eventually start meeting alums and even formed an indie label, Merkin Records, with one of them, Joe Goldsborough of Reptile House, in 1988.
“He knew everyone from the Marble scene and through him and the label I got to understand the history and the importance of the venue and its culture that has made what Baltimore’s underground music scene is today,” Koslowski writes. “IMHO, without the Marble Bar there probably wouldn’t have been the The Rev/Hour Haus/Memory Lane years in the ’90s which all lead to the Ottobar as we know it now.”
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