S’Mad had been a fixture of the independent and underground music scene in town for years. The proprietor for many years, Nathan Rostop, simply maintained that after setting the little marquee for the joint’s first act (The Bynched Sea, a jazz trio led by SMU professor Sam Bynch), the S, M, A, D and apostrophe had been the only characters left. The fact that the odd name seemed to draw people in was, according to Rostop, a bonus.

Still, from its humble 1978 beginnings as a drain on Nathan Rostop’s UAW pension and disability fund, S’Mad eventually expanded to include a full cash bar (in 1983) a complete kitchen (in 1986) and eventually its own microbrewery (in 1998). Regional and local acts of every genre and stripe kept the house at least moderately in the green, from The Bynched Sea jazz trio to The Rescinded League folk metal to the Antique Threshers ska group.

When Nathan Rostop died in 2002, reportedly during a performance of The Highest Constable electro-pop group, the books were opened on S’Mad and it was found to be drowning in red ink, with operating costs and gig fees largely paid directly out of the cover fees in cash.