“Eccentric, cozy, laid back, with that little hint of aggression.”
This is how Nick Magoteaux, event booker and sound engineer for The Shrunken Head, described the live music and open-mic venue. That is as close as one can get to defining the very core of this place.
What used to be a local watering hole known as Victorians Midnight Cafe transformed into The Shrunken Head when husband and wife Andreas Kleinert and Kristy Venrick. Venrick said they bought the place in March 2009, but did not name it The Shrunken Head until a year later.
Located on the corner of Neil and West Fifth avenues, The Shrunken Head has come a long way since its inception, Magoteaux said.
“When we first came here, the place was a mess,” Manfred Haertel, an open-mic regular at the venue, said. “The sound system was crap [and] the speakers were behind the audience.”
The stage was just half the size it is now and the decor was very mismatched. The place did not have a “super identity,” Magoteaux said. Since then, the space has expanded and replaced the old audio system.
Ken Pardee, an open-mic regular, said the audio system is one worth boasting about.
“That is one of the most impressive things about the place,” Pardee said. “Even though the artwork is kind of neat, the sound is perfect.”
Magoteaux said The Shrunken Head is different from other live music venues, because it’s a place where all variety of works are accepted.
“There aren’t usually places that are willing to do death metal and black metal compared to ‘80s rock cover bands or something a little more listenable to the general public,” Magoteaux said.
Musical open-mic nights are one of the main attractions of The Shrunken Head, and Magoteaux stressed how important they are for the musical community.
Magoteaux said an open-mic is like a gateway to expressing one’s musical abilities and gives others an opportunity to hear their music. He said it also helps people discover new talent, as the musical world should never become stagnant.
Haertel said he believes there is an extraordinary amount of talent housed inside the venue whenever there is an open-mic night.
“I’ve been to most of the open-mics around town,” Haertel said. “But this one right now is the best. Other times there are ones that might rival with it, but right now, talent-wise, it’s the best.”
The Shrunken Head has no one genre fixed to its name. It serves to give musicians from different backgrounds a chance to showcase their talent.
“We are definitely the chameleon of bars,” Magoteaux said. “So we might have country one night, and then we might have deathcore the next night, and then we might have pop rock the next night.”
There is no one particular demographic of people that The Shrunken Head attracts; it all depends on the shows that are going on and the kind of crowd that appreciates that show. Magoteaux said people of all ages are attracted to this bar because of the diversity of music that it offers.
Once a month on a Saturday, there is an event called “Electric Goes Acoustic,” where high-energy rock bands strip their set down and go acoustic. There are two bands that perform, each playing 40-minute sets.
The next show is going to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday and will feature Something Else and The 40.
There is something going on every night at the club. Monday is comedy open mic, Tuesday has trivia, Wednesday is the musical open mic, Thursday has themed trivia, and Friday and Saturday have happy hour and night shows, Magoteaux said.
The Shrunken Head has been integral in the progression of the Columbus music scene, as it was the first venue to host Columbus Covers Columbus in 2018, an event that supports local bands.
Magoteaux said the progression has been a teamwork-oriented process.
“Music should bring people together and so should shows,” he said. “It’s where you all come together and have a good time.”
The Shrunken Head also creates an atmosphere conducive to learning from each other because most of the audience members are musicians themselves, Haertel said.
For regulars like Haertel and Pardee, who have been visiting and performing at the venue since its inception, it is much more than just a music venue or a bar.
“It’s a listening room.” Haertel said. “It’s mostly musicians who come out here, and so they tend to listen to other musicians and watch what they’re doing.”
Although he spends a lot of time at The Shrunken Head, Magoteaux urges everyone to explore all Columbus venues because music is about exploration and finding new things and helping the community grow as a whole.
“It’s important to experience what everything has to offer because ultimately, we’re all in it together,” Magoteaux said.