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Inferno - 12 Year Anniversary

in Madison, WI
by Mike Huberty - November 2008

Photo Caption: Club Inferno

Club Inferno

Inferno Nightclub in the Madison suburb of Maple Bluff has been a mainstay of the area’s goth, punk, and DJ scene for over a decade now and this December celebrates its twelfth anniversary. Apollo Marquez, the owner of the club, has been a constant and steadfast supporter of live entertainment in the area and has shown his commitment to putting on as diverse a selection of events as you’re likely to get anywhere. That’s the kind of club he was inspired to create, as Apollo says, “I used to live in Denver and got a lot of ideas from going out to clubs there. I started going to punk rock shows when I was 15 in places like The Loft in Madison, and always roadied and helped out friends that played guitar or drums. My parents had bought the building and said that if I’d help them out, we’d see where it went. Then I leased it from them and turned it into the Inferno.” It’s almost always under what he calls “constant remodeling” (if you haven’t been there for a little while, you might be surprised about how different the layout has changed since its beginning. “We have three bars here now, the building was built in 1939 and there’s been three additions since then. It’s a lot better than it was when I got in here.” And initially, he didn’t expect to be so successful for so long. “At the end of 5, I was happy to make it to 10,” Apollo says.

As the club known in the area for its embrace of below-the-radar culture, “I guess it’s a little bit on the underground tip, what we’re trying to do here,” he says. “We’ve always done a lot of different stuff: punk, reggae, rockabilly, most people think of it as a Goth club, but last night I had hip-hop.” Its that mix of genre nights that has kept the club interesting over the years. Apollo describes a usual week for the Inferno, “We’re generally open from Wednesday through Saturday, and have a fetish night one Sunday out of the month, that’s pretty hardcore. Wednesdays, trying to do punk bands and deejays playing old NOFX, Black Flag, Misfits, metal and a mix of what you’d wanna hear.” That’s the night that also features two dollar taps, mixers, and Jaegermeister. “Thursdays are live shows and every Friday is a different kind of night. The first Friday of the month is called, Spoil, which is one of the few techno shows we have left. We just had a debate-themed night here a few Tuesdays ago, and it was good to see 50 or 60 year old people in here open-minded enough to check it out. We’re even hosting a cosplay (people dressing up as their favorite anime characters) night on a Saturday. We’re always open to new ideas and have people try different things here,” he says.

As the owner of one of the oldest live music clubs (in an ephemeral business like entertainment, 12 years makes Inferno one of the area’s most established venues), Apollo’s seen a lot of changes over the years in the scene as well. He says, “There’s definitely a lot more venues now. People always used to say there’s nothing to do in town and there’s nowhere to play. There was a saturation point, especially with DJ stuff in the early 2000s, every bar on State Street had a DJ or a rave party in the early 2000s and that scene has gone… I’ve always tried to book live music here. It’s neat to see that there’s more of an appreciation of it, I don’t see it as competition, now there’s more places to not got sick of.”

Twelve years in, Inferno’s unique identity on the local scene is stronger than ever. Apollo says, “I hope people will be open-minded enough to come check stuff out, there’s always going to be a niche group of people who are going to be looking for something original and new. We catch most of the people that we catch. If you haven’t heard of this place before, then we must not be the place that you’re looking for. But people drive down from Minnesota and Chicago and return here for different events. There was a lady in her mid-40s that used to come to Leather and Lace night and she moved to Duluth and still comes down here. I have a lot of people that move out of town and I see them back.” That dedication of the patrons for their favorite hangout and vice versa and Inferno’s dedication to constantly providing club goers with new alternatives in entertainment, has kept it thriving throughout two decades and hopefully will see it through the next.

1718 Commercial Avenue
Madison, WI 53704 (608) 245-958

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