Red Awning Blues: Remembering Richard Ashburn

The Sidebar has been my favorite Baltimore punk venue since I was thirteen. Most people wouldn’t even have allowed thirteen year old kids into the smoke filled, Natty Boh glazed hole in the wall at the corner of Lexington and Guilford that is The Sidebar, but Richard looked out for my friends and me. He’d come around and see that we were doing alright between bands, give us sodas on the house, and bring his dog around when there weren’t too many people.

After months of practicing and  seeing bands like Fishnet Stalkers, Blondsai, Thee Lexington Arrows, and The Living Wrecks, we got asked to play a show at The Sidebar. The first Media Pigs show was a night that will stay planted in my memory until the day I die. We played with Nighttime Dealers, Naked Skanks, and Living Wrecks. We ripped through ten or twelve of the loudest, fastest songs we had to offer, and made jailbait jokes as often as we thanked the audience for listening. Coming offstage and having everyone that we looked up  to in the other bands tell us that we played a great set was one of the most gratifying feelings in the world. It was even better when Richard told me personally that I did great and gave me a hug because Richard didn’t  seem all that into punk rock. Most nights, he’d sit quietly on the steps or at the bar chatting and looking around every once in a while to make sure all of the drunk punks weren’t wrecking his bar. His appreciation meant one thing, Sidebar was home. It seemed kind of weird to me at first that a bar whose walls were tattooed with bumper stickers from punk bands played host to a bunch of lawyers and yuppies during happy hour, but it was all the same to Richard. He welcomed everyone into his bar, and as long as they weren’t fucking things up too badly, he treated them like family.

Media Pigs played about five or six more shows there before we disbanded in 2007, but I kept going to shows at Sidebar and played there once again with my post-Pigs band The Communist Eyes. Every now and then, I’d run into Richard and say hello. One day, I realized that I hadn’t seen him in a while and one of my friends informed me that he sold the bar to Travis Hunt about a year or two ago. Hearing that he died today made me realize what a powerful influence he had on everyone involved in the Baltimore punk scene. Thank you for everything, Richard. We will miss you!


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