You’re not in Kansas anymore
Allentown bar Nietzsche’s attracts an eclectic local following
Published: Sunday, September 15, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 15, 2013 17:09
Seventy-eight-year-old Buffalo native Eugene Piwko does not want to “just die.” He wants to dance.
For this reason, his bar of choice is Nietzsche’s on Allen Street.
The legendary Buffalo establishment is recognized as one of the most historical bars in the area. Nietzsche’s has been holding open-mic night longer than any other bar in the country, according to an employee. For the last 30 years, Nietzsche’s has been a venue for live music every day of the week.
The bar appears dark and mysterious from the outside on any given night in the city. The inside is equally ominous with a red glow that shines a light on walls decorated in posters of past acts and musical icons. Some highlights include The Beatles, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix and other storied groups.
Nietzsche’s rich history is literally etched into the ceiling with autographs that stretch from the front to the back door. In the midst of the beautiful madness stands a centerpiece of sorts – a Wizard of Oz sign. A message over Dorothy’s red shoes reads: “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore.”
This could not be truer for those making their first trip to Nietzsche’s.
The atmosphere upon entering the bar, with its host of locals and regulars posted in their favorite spots, feels instantly welcoming from the sea of smiles, echoing laughter and body language of patrons like Piwko.
“God has given us a gift to dance and appreciate what the artists play here,” Piwko said. “The bands that play here at Nietzsche’s are here to make you enjoy life, wiggle your ass off and have fun.”
Many come to Nietzsche’s, whether its acts are local or big-time recording artists, for the positive atmosphere Piwko described. The bar is an escape for nobodies, regulars and stars alike. Nietzsche’s can draw big-name acts, but it also provides a chance for up-and-coming local bands that have proven their talent to start playing live for a bigger audience.
Twenty-five-year-old Buffalo State College graduate student Raquel Coto, who is from Costa Rica, always goes to Nietzsche’s when her boyfriend’s local band, Chloroform, performs.
“They play here once a month and love it here because Nietzsche’s is one of the most popular bars for bands to play in Buffalo,” Coto said. “Nietzsche’s just gives off a positive vibe, and people play music here that has soul.”
Coto is also a big fan of the bar’s interior decorating and signs. The Wizard of Oz sign is her favorite.
“To me, it means that this bar gets people out of their comfort zone,” Coto said. “It’s not about Kansas, but it’s how you deal with everything to get out of that comfort zone, which is what Nietzsche’s does.”
Forty-five-year-old Buffalo native Glenn Plato has been a regular at Nietzsche’s for almost 25 years.
"I like to come here to relax, enjoy a drink and listen to free music,” Plato said.
Plato said Nietzsche’s is one of the only places in Buffalo for music lovers to wind down, enjoy themselves and meet friends while listening to local musicians all at once. Plato encourages music lovers to come to Nietzsche’s if they’re looking for new and different tunes.
Aside from Nietzsche’s unique qualities as a music venue, it also has a wide variety of drink selections and specials.
The bar’s beer menu provides a description of each of the 12 beers on tap. Bottled beers are well stocked.
Popular beers on tap include: crisp Sierra Nevada; sweet, Belgian-style Blue Moon; and the handsome Double Dark Cream Porter. Nietzsche’s carries what might be considered the run-of-the-mill bottled beers, but it also offers less common brews like McKenzie’s Hard Cider and Red Stripe.
Nietzsche’s features a beer special for open-mic night on Mondays. This month is “Blue Moon Mondays,” according to Nietzsche’s September flier. Patrons can get a pint of Blue Moon for $3.
Open mic starts at 8 p.m., and there is almost always a rush of artists who spew into the bar in an effort to get their name on the performance list for the evening. Artists get a chance to show off their skills on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Valerie Meli, 44, of West Buffalo, has been working at Nietzsche’s for seven years, and she still admires how mesmerized the crowds are on open-mic night – whether the performers are playing blues, folk, reggae, alternative rock or “soulful music,” as she calls it.
Meli is constantly in awe of how special the bar is. That being said, customers know that Meli is part of what makes Nietzsche’s special. Meli’s personality personifies the staff as a whole with her fun-loving, energetic, respectful attitude.