The roots of Southwest Florida’s local music scene may be unexpected to the uninitiated.
It’s steeped in hardcore, punk and indie rock with bright flashes of screamo, ska and bleeding-heart emo tones. It’s a scene that’s unique with a DIY approach, and one that locals are intensely dedicated to. It’s also a similar approach that Nice Guys Pizza owners Greg Gebhard and Jovana Batkovic took with their restaurant.
“We like the lighting low,” said Gebhard. “We like the music loud. It’s kind of got dive bar feelings when you walk in. But food and beverage is so important to us that that I think, shines through above everything else.”
Nice Guys 10 YR_LANDSCAPE – (16×9) v.3.mp4
Both coming from a musical background, it was important to the couple to showcase local artists and also become a venue space when they opened their Cape Coral pizza place in 2013. Gebhard says there were few spots for grittier, non-singer/songwriter acts to play in Southwest Florida before Nice Guys.
“Back when we first opened up, there weren’t as many places,” said Gebhard. “I think that’s important just to have a wide variety of spots to play, so that one place isn’t the only place to go see shows. You need options, because every band isn’t going to fit every venue.”
Filling a much-needed cultural void in the area, Nice Guys Pizza has been instrumental in drawing a new kind of crowd to Cape Coral. Musician and local business owner Joe Lachut admits he never had a reason to visit the Cape before.
“I never thought I’d be hanging out in downtown Cape Coral. Ever. We never came here, but then Nice Guys happened, and it was like wow, this is a place to actually feel comfortable,” said Lachut.
Over the years, Nice Guys Pizza has become known for their annual anniversary bashes featuring music and limited-run brews. But to mark their tenth year, they wanted to go big while also giving back to the community that has devoured slice after slice in the dimly lit, punk rock haven.
Nice Guys made a few big asks and pulled off reuniting nine local groups that shaped the sound of Southwest Florida’s rock and hardcore scene.
“I was unbelievably surprised at how many bands actually said yes, they would come back in and you know, relearn all the songs, rehearse everything, get back together, make travel plans, and get here for the show,” said Gebhard.
Band members came together from all around the globe to make the reunion a reality. Most of the groups haven’t played together in more than a decade.
“I live in Marietta, Georgia, now, just north of Atlanta,” said Marshall. “And so, I did not come the farthest. We have people from L.A., Portland, London, Wisconsin, other places. Yeah, it’s wild.”
Nevin Marshall has been part of the Southwest Florida music scene since the late 90s. He’s reuniting with two of his former bands for the Nice Guys show, Merkit and Jiyuna. He said it was easy to say, ‘yes’ to the reunion because of the impact Southwest Florida’s music continues to have on his life.
“I don’t know what other answer there was,” said Marshall. “So, there wasn’t another answer. No, is not an option. These are the people I grew up with and drew inspiration from and that like, kept me going, and we kept each other going and yeah, it’s just been my life.”
The lineup featured local rock legends Jiyuna, Merkit, Anchorite Four, Let’s Go Exploring, Tanner Jones of You Blew It! and Couplet, Strip Club Moms, and Table 9.
It wasn’t only band members who booked plane tickets to make the 10-year reunion show. When Nice Guys announced the anniversary lineup and tickets were available, they sold out in less than 2-minutes.
Ticket holders made their pilgrimage to Cape Coral from New York, Washington, Texas and beyond to show their love for the local haunt and see bands like The Anchorite Four, Let’s Go Exploring, The Strip Club Moms, and You Blew It! play for possibly the last time.
Traveling 1,300 miles from Pflugerville, Texas, Hayden Sanchez came back to his hometown to see the emo quintet You Blew It!
“I love Nice Guys,” said Sanchez. “It means the world to me that they put on all these kinds of shows. When Nice guys popped up, it definitely became like our music scene, basically. There’s a lot of music I would never heard of in my entire life if I didn’t go to local shows.”
This sort of community drive is exactly what Nice Guys Pizza is about. Gebhard and Batkovic routinely host trivia events, DJ nights, hold pop-ups featuring local artisans and vendors, and take part in Downtown Cape Coral festivals.
Though pizza is the name of their game, and one they play extremely well, Gebhard says Nice Guys will continue to be an inclusive venue for the love of arts and the customers who make their not-so-dive dive bar a success.
“If it’s good for the community, if it’s something that’s going to bring more culture to the area, that’s kind of what we’re what we’re looking for,” said Gebhard.
IF YOU GO:
Nice Guys Pizza, Beer, and Cocktails
1404 Cape Coral Pkwy E, Cape Coral, FL 33904
Open Sun, Tue, Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat. 4:00 PM – 1:30 AM
Nice Guys Pizza serves up scratch-made pizzas and cocktails unlike that of which Southwest Florida has ever seen. The ingredients are fresh and sourced from local suppliers whenever possible, and the combinations are something out of a delicious fever dream. Gebhard said that using quality products and taking the extra time to craft unique menu items will result in a better overall experience.
“Anything that you are willing to make yourself, it’s going to be better,” said Gebhard, “Like, if you’re willing to put the time into making the ingredients, then the end product is going to be better because you put so much care into each individual piece of it.”
Because where else are you going to get a pizza inspired by elotes called, “Street Corn Named Desire”? Or a pie inspired by the iconic Big Mac or the popular dish General Tso’s? Nowhere but Nice Guys.
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