Posted by: Cory | August 22, 2008

The Dame: It Really Happened

All photos by Patrick Garnett

It’s hard to believe that Lexington was really so short sighted as to destroy such a significant portion of its downtown district as The Dame to replace it with a hotel it doesn’t need and won’t be able to fill. While rumors had abounded for a long time, the pictures above tell the startling truth…The Dame is gone! Despite the talks, I just never really believed they would go through with it.  For years now, Kentucky has only had two venues with the ability to consistently draw incredible up-and-coming mid-level bands that would not normally tour through the area, and now one of those is gone and may well be gone forever (it still hasn’t been able to, and many never find a new home).

Last night Ideal Free Distribution got people together to sing their song “Anne Maria” on the sidewalk with The Dame being torn down in the background….partly a tribute to The Dame and Buster’s having been so infinitely supportive of local music over the years and also a statement that “The Man” can tear down Lexington’s only valid music venue but that the music will persevere. They’ll sing songs in the street if they have to, literally.

I encourage everyone to share a story from the Dame in the comments below.  I’ll start: I have seen too many great shows at The Dame to simply pick one of those out, but some of my favorites were Iron & Wine, Man Man & the best VHS or Beta show to date.  One of my first dates with my gf was Goo Goo Dolls and not long after that was Lucero, I learned devastating family news after seeing I&W with my father, I got into some serious trouble after seeing The Apparitions, the VHS or Beta show in Lexington was my first & it changed my life, I was in the most violent mosh pit of my life at The Queers & I missed far more due to law school.  I’ve made great friends at the Dame & it was always a place I could go and see old friends I would otherwise rarely see. I’m really going to miss that place & hope beyond hope it’s doors open again soon…

I should have a video up of last night’s statement in a few days.  For more pictures of the destruction,

Buster’s, Mia’s and Rosenburg Jewelers have also been wiped out.



  1. I lived in Lexington for about 15 years…Saw a lot of venues come and go…the Dame goes down as one of the best, up there in the city’s upper echelon of other extinct clubs like the Wrocklage, Lynaghs, and Area 51. Those pictures are pretty sickening to look at. I’ve seen way too many shows to count there.

    One of the (many) reasons I returned to Louisville was the fight all of the musicians and artists in Lexington have to constantly engage in order to have a place to play/perform. The city just does not care about local arts, it seems, and makes it darned near impossible sometimes. There are very few venues in Lexington, and a million talented and interesting bands. The Dame filled a void that had been existent for a long time. Sure there were aches and pains about it, like every club, but the musician’s and the city needed it.

    I’ve seen Lexington go thru waves and waves of this…something new will open eventually…there are too many creative people in the city for it not , too. House shows have gotten popular there simply for these same reasons. The music scene in Lexington is usually pretty good about surviving, so I don’t fear that this is a permanent destruction, but it just fucking sucks to watch a city squash something very important.

    On another note…the destruction of Busters saddens me as much, if not more. Busters, the pool hall next door, was one of the greatest bars/hangouts ever in any city, and its owner(s) always supported local music; it was one of the few places you could get a cheap canned beer and listen to a jukebox stocked with local music. Like a lot of venues here in Louisville, it was converted into a music club simply on the fact that the staff loved local creativity, and supported it no matter what. I’m sure it was considered by the higher-ups of the downtown organization to be a blight on the Mayberry feel they want to give to the town sometimes because yeah, it was a dirty pool hall. But it was one of a kind, and was the type of place I had hoped to visit in 60 years…the old hangout. I’m sad its gone.

  2. What an incredible shame, and how short-sighted. I drove down to the Dame from Louisville only once, but it was to see what is probably my all-time favorite band: Mogwai – a band I thought I would never get to see live. The Dame was a perfect venue, a hip oasis in oddly conservative little Lexington. It is a huge loss.

  3. I lived in Lexington for 3 years and was lucky enough to have been within walking distance of The Dame. I saw many great shows there. However, no show at any venue holds a candle to The Arcade Fire and Elf Power at The Dame. I saw them at Waterfront Park and it wasn’t nearly as good. There is now absolutely no reason to go to Lexington. I hope the blue bloods enjoy their Red Lobsters, Olive Gardens, Outback Steakhouses and all other chains that flourish in that no culture city.

  4. So sad. I made the trek down from Louisville over a dozen times over the last 7 or so years. Saw my good friends The Apparitions many of those times, plus memorable ones by Over The Rhine and a few others. But the best times were with the Lexington hometown boys (and I’ll go ahead and claim them for Louisville too), The Apparitions. The Dame was so good to those guys and to any other band who befriended Mark Charles Heidinger and friends: Scourge of the Sea, These United States, Neva Geoffrey, Vandaveer, etc. It’s rare for a venue to remain so faithful to a local scene like the Dame did, when they could have easily booked many other high profile touring acts to make money. They had no problem hosting bigger ticket notables like Iron & Wine one night, then locals for a $5 cover the next, and even on a prime Saturday night.

    The Dame will be missed for sure. May the owners find a suitable new location and may Louisville welcome music-hungry Lexington fans in the meantime and return the favor to our bluegrass brethren.

  5. I grew up in Lexington and I used to sneak into the Dame (in a previous incarnation) back in 96 when I was waay short of 21 for house music. Best show I saw there was… Battles. Hands down.

  6. Saying The Dame had character is like saying that space is vast – it’s such a gross understatement. Every night, something totally out of the ordinary happened, and that’s really what gives a city character – having a place where you know you can see something you can’t find elsewhere. I mean, stuff you couldn’t make up. Everything from random crusty dudes selling handmade burritos outside during every jam band show, to bobo dolls being tossed about the room on Saturday nights, to the Aqua Teen Mooninites showing up on the dance floor out of nowhere on a cold winter night, to Gillian Welch walking on stage
    in the middle of a Dave Rawlings performance to surprise the crowd (and watch 100 cell phones flip open), to watching KRS-One roll through the front door only a few minutes before he was set to start, to Mogwai almost blowing the building’s power, to the Arcade Fire using the ceiling’s exposed pipes as an extra snare drum, to Devotchka jumping off stage and playing their instruments throughout the crowd. That just scratches the surface. To this day, I still constantly tell people stories from that place.

    I have a rather lengthy post with more:

  7. This is a shame. I lived in Lexington for 5 years and have seen countless great shows there. Freakwater was a highlight for me. After seeing Raq there last year the band ended, the disco ball dropped down, the smoke machine roared up and an all out funk/dance party started. I will miss that place!!!

    :::good vibes::::

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: