This morning I learned of the passing of a friend. I learned of his passing the same way we all learn about everything these days – via Facebook. I was rather stunned and more affected by the news than I thought I would be. Jon Weiss always treated me well and I always had the utmost respect for him. Ironically, this bar owner from Appleton, WI died from liver cancer.
For the last couple of weeks I had been planning on purchasing and downloading a compilation CD put together as a fundraiser for Jon and his family. I had the webpage open on my iPhone so I saw Jon’s caricature everyday whenever I opened up Safari. The likeness is uncanny and it made me smile. For some reason, this morning, when I first opened Safari and saw Jon’s caricature staring back at me, I decided to finally click ‘purchase’ and make my small monetary donation to Jon and his family.
Then later in the morning as I am working on an issue at work for a coworker named Jonathan, I get the disturbing news of Jon’s passing. I am always fascinated by the coincidences I encounter in everyday life and these two things definitely struck a chord with me.
Jon owned the Maritime Tavern in Appleton and for countless years it was the premier music venue for a large number of local bands and bands that were touring through the area. I haven’t been to the Maritime since early 2005 (wow – those 8+ years sure sped right by) and in the time since I was last there Jon made countless improvements to his bar to make the bar physically more appealing to musicians – but the one thing that the bar had way back when is what is really needed to build a world-class establishment like the Maritime – a person at the helm that gives a fuck about the music and more importantly the musicians. Jon Weiss embodied all that is good in a bar owner.
I played at The Maritime countless times between 2002 and 2005. I was a member of The Creeps and besides our regular weekend gigs at The Maritime, we were the house band for the Wednesday night jam nights that Jon hosted at his bar. And goddamn those were some of the best and worst gigs ever! The Creeps always had a great core group of fans but the Wednesday nights could be hit or miss; I mean it’s the middle of the week for crissakes – staying out late on a school night requires a special kind of person – a special kind of VERY DRUNK person to be exact. Oh the times we had….
The Creeps would start the evening at Tony Ramone’s house down in the basement rehearsing some new cover tunes and the odd original tune might get thrown in as well. This band played a lot of gigs and rehearsals together and was incredibly tight. The set list was hard rock and damn fun shit to play (“Shall we open the night with ‘Seek and Destroy’?” “Fuckin’ A we shall!”) After a good sweaty rehearsal the band caravanned over to The Maritime to set up for the weekly jam fest. Jon would be there to welcome us all in; needless to say we all had a drink in hand before any of our gear was even out of the cases. Oh the generosity of Jon took its toll on our health!
And speaking of gear that the band used, guess where we had our stuff stored? Right in the basement of The Maritime! Jon was the epitome of cool and allowed us to store our PA, speakers, and drums down in the basement! How awesome is that?! Name me one other bar owner that would be cool with having a band’s gear stored at his place.
Jon was even cool with us when The Creeps brought in some new subs (speakers for low end) that literally rattled the rafters at the Maritime. Shit fell off of the walls and the ceiling! Did Jon fire the band? Complain? NO! He had a good laugh about it along with the rest of us.
The Maritime was a great place to hang out even when a band wasn’t playing; again, that was because Jon was so uber cool. Many a night would be spent at that bar drinking, chatting, watching TV. It was comfortable. It was a home away from home for many locals. I remember going there for nightcaps and good times on my 30th birthday; it felt like the right thing to do. Fuck, we’d even go there before or after playing gigs elsewhere just because the vibe that Jon embedded in that bar was so awesome.
The Maritime was the warmth in the cold, the A/C in the summer, the gathering place for friends, and the premiere venue for local musicians to play. Jon built an empire just by being cool.
How cool was Jon? Just go on Facebook and you’ll see the outpouring of love for him. I don’t think anyone disliked Jon. How many people can you say that about? How many people can you say that about in the music business?!
So long, Jon. You were a good friend to many and set the bar so high for club owners I don’t expect to ever see anyone else come close matching you.
A little bit of trivia: the only time I ever played my Pork Pie drum kit on a gig was at The Maritime for a Thanksgiving Eve show with The Creeps. Of course, Jon was there with a free drink and a compliment for the band.
More trivia: I had one of my broken cymbals hanging behind the bar. That always made me feel like a rockstar.