The Mousetrap: A Stepping Stone for Local Musicians

It’s Wednesday night for Mike Quarto, which means hearing some of his favorite music. But he doesn’t have to go very far. In fact, he can sit in his own private office, respond to some emails while sipping on his favorite beer and listening to his favorite genre of music.

It had always been Quarto’s dream to own a restaurant/bar, so when he had the chance to take over the Mousetrap in 2002, he quickly snatched it up. The Mousetrap is one of Indy’s oldest bars located on the north side of the city. The bar originally opened in 1957 and was known for their famous beef stew throughout the ‘70s that created a lot of regulars coming back for more.

Today, with the addition of many high-definition big screens, new windows, carpet, and a much larger stage, the bar still draws in its regulars but now with local jam bands instead of a steaming pot of beef stew.

Quarto attended IUPUI for a while but said that he gained more of an education working in over 20 different restaurants throughout his life. After taking over the bar in 2002, Quarto had a vision for what he wanted with this bar. He loved the idea of having live music and giving local musicians opportunities to “make their mark.”  He hired his first solo artist, who he said sounded like Janis Joplin and did some covers of her songs. But he wanted original music.

From Another Mother performs at the Mousetrap. 

From Another Mother performs at the Mousetrap. 

“This is when I had sort of an epiphany,” Quarto said. “ I didn’t want to sit here and listen to this. We needed a niche, and this wasn’t it.”

In 2004 Quarto found that niche. He explained during this time, the festival scene was blossoming and he began to take advantage of its sweet and mellow fruit. Jam bands like The Grateful Dead and Phish gave him the inspiration to recreate the atmosphere of their smooth, relaxing shows.

Wednesday nights the bar hosts a Family Jam in which the house band, among other bands, play in a freestyle arrangement, in which musicians can join them on stage and perform improv jam sessions.

The house band calls themselves From Another Mother (FAM) for family jam night. Vocalist and guitarist Mikial Robertson plays at Mousetrap every Wednesday night and loves the atmosphere produced by the good vibes from the music. He has been playing guitar since he was 7 years old with inspiration from Jimi Hendrix and jazz music. He has been teaching guitar lessons at Bongo Boy Music School for the past couple of years because of his passion for human interaction that he feels technology has taken away from music.

“I like hearing mistakes in music,” Robertson said, “It reminds me that there’s a real person playing.”

Robertson says it’s important to stay true to yourself when trying to make it as a musician. “It’s tricky man,” he would say to other musicians trying to make it. He would advise others to do something everybody hates and see how it turns out. “If it works then stick to it,” he said smiling under the dim bar lights.

Drummer Shaan France is the most recent member of the group, joining two years ago when a spot in his schedule opened up. He can play all percussion instruments due to his education at Morehead State University in Kentucky. From banging on pots and pans to joining middle school band, France was destined to play drums along with encouragement from his musical family.

The stage setup at The Mousetrap.

The stage setup at The Mousetrap.

His inspiration comes from the musical changes he has been able to see throughout history. Now in his 40s, he’s witnessed dramatic shifts in all genres of music throughout his lifetime from rap and hip-hop, to rock, pop, grunge and even jazz. He believes in listening to as much music as possible even if it’s his least favorite.

“That’s what helps to get the gigs,” France said while flipping a black dread back in place.

He encourages everybody to educate themselves in all genres of music. France doesn’t particularly like country music, but he knows how to play it and that’s what important when trying to make music a career.

Both men have a relaxed and happy stage presence. Robertson plucks his guitar so softly while gently swaying to the beat of the music. France watches and drums in sync with the bass and guitar while every once and awhile flashing a big Ray Charles smile.    

During the show Quarto will walk around his bar making sure his customers are doing okay and being well taken care of. His hospitality is outstanding and he makes every single person that walks through his door right at home.

The Mousetrap doesn’t just stick to one type of music. Quarto likes to include a variety of live music for all audiences such as bluegrass, electronic, rock and his favorite, jam bands. He loves being able to witness local bands grow and that his what lead him to start a local radio station,106.3 The Trap, that streams live shows right from the bar.

His goal is for the station to play 24/7 promoting all of his bands and musicians, but as of right now it plays for about 14 hours a week.

Over the years Quarto has had a variety of musicians, mostly local and some famous from all over the country. His focus is always on local first, then regional, then national. He describes his bar as a stepping-stone for musicians trying to find their way in the tricky industry.

Quarto has indeed found a niche in the city and provides a great business and atmosphere with his passion and experience. It’s important to give the people what they want but more important to give yourself what you want. Quarto took a leap of faith and discovered that great minds think alike.