The Merrow is located in the pleasant, popping town of Hillcrest. It used to be called the Ruby Room, which was an eclectic art-bar of sorts owned by a guy named Sam. They were the premier live music venue in Hillcrest, offering up many genres of music on any given night, with eerie and interesting paintings decorating the walls. Alas, the Ruby Room closed their doors in late 2013 and changed ownership.
Walking into the new Merrow makes me reminisce on all the good times I had at the Ruby Room. Looking around, I notice that besides the name, the place has not changed much. They kept many of the same bartenders and many of the same beers on tap. The only big change was the redecoration – the paintings were largely gone, with different posters taking their places. The Merrow stays true to the roots of the Ruby Room, however, showcasing many different aspiring artists and groups from all over San Diego, and even some touring acts.
When you walk in, the first thing that greets you is – thankfully – the bar. They have about fifteen microbrews on tap, and their glasses are cold and feel just right. Being a distributor of microbrews, the beers are a little bit on the expensive side ($6 - $7), but it’s nothing to cry about. You can pay with cash or plastic.
To the left of the bar is the showroom: a big, lifted stage, and wide-open space up front for audiences to stand and mingle during shows. There are a few tables for the more casual crowd, two pool tables, and the sound-booth is pretty close to the bar, directly parallel with the stage.
One of the best aspects of The Merrow is the soundguy, Shiloh. I’ve known Shiloh for many years (thankfully he remained even when the Ruby Room left), and he’s always been one of the best and easiest sound engineers to work with in San Diego. With his shaved head and long, belly-reaching red beard, he might seem intimidating at first glance, but he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. No ego whatsoever in his approach to sound – whatever a band wants, they’ll get. He is the main reason why The Merrow consistently has such a great sound.
Most of the shows have a reasonable, low-cost cover fee (usually between $5 and $10), which gets split evenly amongst the bands. It is nice to see honest people that aren’t trying to jip the bands playing. The ownership at The Merrow knows that giving bands the door money to split is what keeps them coming back, and in turn what keeps their fans coming back. They also know that if bands draw well, the venue is going to make a killing at the bar. It is this kind of mutual respect that keeps everyone happy: bands get a little take-home money, the bar makes money, and everyone leaves satisfied.
The vibe here is great. There aren’t any clashes or power-trips from the workers or from the attendees. Everyone knows that when you go to The Merrow, you’re going to have a great, stress-free time, which is exactly what a music venue should try to represent.
- Great, quaint location – lots of partying, but a thriving community.
- Laid-back vibe and a spacious venue.
- Door money is split between bands, keeping everyone honest.
- Shiloh is one of the best sound guys in the business.