The Headbanging Bartender Who Saved Geno’s Rock Club

Kathryn Taylor is keeping another storied indie venue from closing.

Kathryn Taylor at the bar of Geno's Rock Club
By Joel Crabtree
Photographed by Jeff Roberts

Since 1983, Geno’s Rock Club has been Portland’s dimly lit, high-decibel, close-quarters refuge for up-and-comers and niche bands, especially punk and metal acts. During a pandemic, though, common sense precludes bouncing around a sweaty mosh pit with total strangers. So, for Kathryn Taylor, the decision to take over Geno’s last year was born not of financial calculus but of a sense of responsibility. She wanted to preserve a place where musicians of all stripes can do their thing. “If I don’t do this,” she remembers thinking, “I’m always going to regret it.”

A Limerick native who left Maine after high school, Taylor spent years coming back from San Francisco or Philadelphia or Brooklyn to visit her mom, often spending nights catching shows at Geno’s Rock Club. She moved to Portland just over a year ago and started bartending around town. When she heard Geno’s longtime owner wanted out of the business, she figured she had enough money saved to close the deal and keep up on rent until a safe reopening is possible. Once that happens, she doesn’t want to change much, but she’s thinking of expanding the repertoire, maybe to include theater and burlesque. “Geno’s was awesome — and it is awesome,” she says, “but I’m going to breathe new life into it.”