Oral History: Dana Hamblen

Why Sudsy Malone’s mattered, and still does

Describes herself as a “serial monogamist when it comes to bands.” The bassist, drummer, and vocalist performs with The Fairmount Girls, Culture Queer, and Darlene. In the 1990s, her band Ditchweed frequently rocked the stage at Sudsy Malone’s. The first song on Darlene’s 2021 album, The Genius Lives Next Door, emerged, Hamblen says, from road trip game to pass time by trying to remember as many of the bands that played Sudsy’s as possible. Listen to “Common Law Cabin” here.

Dana Hamblen (second from left) and the Fairmount Girls

Photograph by David Garza

Sudsy’s is still one of my favorite places to play and to see shows ever. There was always something great there. You had to pick and choose because you couldn’t go out every single night. Ditchweed played with Laughing Hyenas, Superchunk, Babe the Blue Ox several times, Surgery, Arches of loaf, Mike Watt. There are way more than that, but that’s just like a huge amount of awesome. And I saw so many other great shows there. Morphine! Spoon! The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. Stereolab and Yo La Tengo were both pretty memorable there.

+ Cincinnati Magazine remembers the legacy of Sudsy Malone’s. Read the full story and other oral histories here.

Did you feel respected as a female musician playing there and that the Sudsy’s scene was supportive of women in music?

There were so many women already there, like Larissa Strickland of Laughing Hyenas and the Deal sisters (Kelley and Kim) and Scrawl. They were all sort of my heroes playing there before I came along, so I didn’t feel like it was that big of a deal. And those Babes in Toyland chicks could party like any dude.

I feel like part of the Sudsy’s thing was that other clubs mostly had cover bands, but Sudsy’s was where you might see something that was totally original. Does that jibe with you?

I don’t credit Sudsy’s with that, because there was the Jockey Club in Newport and then there was Shorty’s Underground near Sudsy’s. The people who promoted the Jockey Club moved, I think, to Murphy’s Pub and then to Shorty’s. Nirvana played at Shorty’s and at Murphy’s, and so did Smashing Pumpkins.

What made Sudsy’s special? Most people have a favorite place or bar from their past.

But not many of them are a place where Stereolab played. Before Sudsy’s became the place to go and the place to play, it was like a little bit here, a little bit there. There was no place like it, every night a scene.

There was a lot of love at Sudsy’s. You would discover some young band. Like, I loved The Nevada Death Band, which then became the Greenhornes. So there was that sense of discovery. And that all came down to Dan McCabe for me.

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