The Blue Fugue is misperceived.
It's a hipster hangout to some and a Latin dance club to others. A few folks even say it’s a redneck bar — but that’s simply because they cater to every crowd. With musical performances spanning the genres from hip-hop to bluegrass and rock 'n' roll to salsa, the Fugue is difficult to box into one particular category.
In 1999, owner Ben Vaughn opened The Blue Fugue on Pirate Alley in the French Quarter of New Orleans with his friend, Scott Meiner. It was their idea of a perfect lounge spot, with a small library of used books, live music and a bar. This incarnation of The Blue Fugue thrived until 2005, when hurricanes Katrina and Rita passed through and flattened the building. The bar, like many in the Gulf area that year, was forced to look for a new home.
Meiner had heard that the Music Café in downtown Columbia, which he was previously employed at, had recently been forced to close due to financial constraints. The owner of the Music Café, Bobby Mojdehi, sold it to Meiner’s close friend Anthony Butler who decided to turn it into the second Blue Fugue location.
Located at 120 S. Ninth St., the Fugue is right between Tonic and Tiger Barber Shop — only a short walk from campus. It remains a great lounge and is a haven for intellectuals, beer aficionados and local musicians.
Senior David McRae, 22, plays poker regularly at the Fugue with his friends.
“I love the Fugue because the people there are awesome,” McRae says. “The staff is absolutely wonderful and I always find great conversations with the other people at the bar. They always have phenomenal music playing and the atmosphere is perfect. Definitely my favorite bar in town.”
Spencer Pearson, a Fugue employee and former Maneater staff member, has worked there for more than a year.
“It’s a fun venue that I’ve been going to since I first moved to Columbia in 2008 to see shows,” Pearson says. “The owners support local activism as well as local artists.”
Indeed, the Fugue has hosted numerous fundraising events for student organizations and displays local art on every wall. Additionally, every Monday, the Fugue has an open mic night, which is a great opportunity for local artists to break into the live performance scene. If artists are successful at generating a supporting crowd, they are often booked for their own shows on a future Thursday or Saturday.
Of course, the Fugue is about more than just music.
“People come to the Fugue for the unique atmosphere and to escape from the more commercialized bars," Pearson says. "It’s got a very organic feel to it.”
It’s a vibe that’s not found in other bars. When asked what drinks makes the Fugue special, owner Ben Vaughn is ready with a list of them: “Chartreuse, framboise, over 150 beers from over 30 countries, 50 single-malt whiskies and 55 tequilas,” he says.
For the early birds, The Fugue boasts one of the best happy hours in town — two-for-one drafts every day before 9 p.m. Drafts available are always changing, but currently include framboise, Boulevard Wheat, Stella Artois, Pabst Blue Ribbon and more.
On top of a place for music and drinking, the Fugue is a great place to just relax. You can play ping pong, read a book, play poker, enjoy local art and music, or simply catch up with old friends. With dim lights and bookshelves lining the walls, the Blue Fugue offers an ambience unlike any other downtown location.