Damon Lyden isn’t an easily forgettable character. If you’ve met him once, you’ll always have the image of a long, read beard surrounded by a mural of vibrant tattoos burned into your brain. Lyden, unlike lots of other punks, is no phony. He has lived as a tattoo artist, toured with bands and has served tours of duty with the U.S. Army. All of these combined experiences have swirled together in the creation of his latest, greatest endeavor: The Sinking Ship.
The Sinking Ship, located just north of the east corner of 49th and College, is the focus of Lyden’s life right now. The bar, which opened Friday, is a true labor of love. Named for a song written by a fallen army buddy, the bar seems to vindicate all of Lyden’s trials and tribulations.
After finishing his involuntary tour of duty in Iraq, Lyden relocated from Nashville, TN to Indianapolis where he found work as a tattoo artist. He eventually settled in, got married and started a band, aptly named The Involuntarys. It’s obvious once you meet Lyden that he has many interests, but none seem to command his attention more than punk rock.
As I walked through the Sinking Ship a few days before opening night, Lyden regaled me with captivating stories about his encounters with punk rock royalty; punching Dropkick Murphys’ frontman Al Barr in the face, dumping Flogging Molly’s back-stage buffet into the trash and shooting the shit with H20. The Sinking Ship, with its tattooed imagery, definitely functions as a punk rock bar, but without pigeonholing itself as one. “This is not a punk rock bar” exclaimed Lyden in an interview, “this is just a working class bar”.
“I’m not trying to make ton of money off of this,” claimed Lyden, “I just wanted to make a place where people can relax and drink and be with friends. I’m making the bar I always wished I could go to.”
As for the location, Lyden claims to have looked long and hard. “We looked all over,” he said, “we ever considered the old Patio space. But in the end, I just didn’t want to deal with all the Broad Ripple bullshit.”
Picking a location, however, is a minor detail in the grand scheme of opening a bar from scratch. “We signed the lease back in March (2010)” he noted, “and it’s taken this long just to get where we are now. We’ve had to apply for so many permits. It’s crazy.”
Luckily, all the permits are in order, all variances are squared away and the taps flowed like waterfalls on the opening night. “We’re lucky to have had so much support,” added Lyden, “the MKNA (Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association) has just been so supportive since the very beginning.” This is refreshing to hear, especially considering the nasty rumors of neighborly negativity surrounding the still-born “Calle 52”, just north of The Sinking Ship.
While the kitchen wasn’t 100% operational on opening night, their fried fare was in full form. A glance at the full menu looks promising with deliciously greasy sounding items such as the “Gooey Damon” burger. The Sinking Ship will also provide plenty of vegetarian fare including Dukboki, a spicy Korean rice cake. “You have got to try the Dukboki.” claimed Lyden “I had it all the time when I was stationed in Korea. It’s amazing.” He also promises that the jukebox will be worth cramming a few dollars into.
Opening night was a huge hit for the bar as it was filled nearly to capacity. The PBR ran dry around ten but there were still plenty of King Cobra 40’s to go around (note: Tuesdays are “$4 Forty Nights”). Members of the punk, hardcore, indie rock and Meridian-Kessler scenes came out in full force to christen the new bar and I believe everyone was happy with what they saw... and drank.
Indianapolis just got a little bit more awesome.