Over the Hill

Centro Sociale, home to some of St. Louis' most inventive musicians, rings down the curtain

After a year-and-a-half run as a neighborhood commie performance space/art gallery/punk club, the Centro Sociale is closing its doors this week as the result of a lack of both finances and workers. The club, located at Southwest and Macklind avenues on the Hill, specialized in bringing a wonderfully broad spectrum of experimental and adventuresome music and art to the city and was named, in this year's "Best of St. Louis" issue of the RFT, both the Best Alternative Music Club and the home of the Best Arts Administrators.

The Centro was a great idea propelled by the enthusiasm of a handful of idealistic souls bent on challenging the notion that St. Louis is too culturally conservative to support such a venture and that individuals intent on making an impact had to move to a more liberal -- and bigger -- city to get their ideas across. Any such venture based on the need for volunteers and saddled with a thin budget faces similar problems, and the Centro's closing is a sad reminder that enthusiasm can only propel a collective so far. Founder Nikki Stewart says that lack of funds was an obvious problem. "Even besides the money, though, it had a lot to do with the lack of volunteers toward the end. We just didn't have people to work the shows once we booked them," she says.

The closing of the Centro hits hardest those bands working to stretch the limits of jazz, rock and punk, bands that don't fit into the tight booking corners many local clubs have painted themselves into. Though toward the end the Centro's bookings were sporadic at best, and they struggled to promote the shows that they did book, the space and the operators were wonderfully open-minded, and their sentiment and policies will be sorely missed.

Though the Centro will cease to exist, the theater company that's been sharing the space, Government Cheese, will continue to use the space and hold performances there.

The Centro is celebrating its brief-but-successful run with grand-finale shows this weekend. Thursday, Dec. 21, will feature the Spiders, Red Line and the Stockyard Stoics. Friday's show, the final at the space, will feature the Red Squares, the Carousel Cowboys and the Highway Matrons.


If you remember the Living Room at all, it's probably for one of two reasons: It was the downtown club where you could rent a private room in which you and your wankster pals could buy a $90 bottle of vodka, shut the door, get drunk and then go out and make asses of yourselves on the dance floor; and it was the club touted in those cheesy ads in which two seductive models sat on a couch and looked all horny at the camera.

That club closed a few years back as said swanksters lost interest, but fret not, wealthy ones: A new Living Room is poised to open, with the same name, the same logo and the same space at 1014 Locust St. Word has it that the owners, brothers Sam and John Berger, are dumping a truckload of money into a massive renovation of the space, intent on turning it into, according to their Web site, "St. Louis' premiere upscale club."

The real news here is the DJ names being bandied about as potential guests: DJ Keoki, Sasha and Digweed, Paul Oakenfold, Perry Farrell. Though none has been confirmed, Jeremy Gaebe, who recently relocated here from Los Angeles and has brought with him contacts in the DJ world, does say that the Living Room's intention is to bring the biggest and best spinners to the club: "We're bringing nothing but big names. We're bringing them every other weekend, sometimes every weekend. We're trying to blow everybody away." The Living Room is a few weeks away from opening -- the Bergers were trying to unlock before New Year's Eve, but that may not happen. We'll keep you posted.


A few things are certain this time of year: You'll receive a number of gifts that make you feel guilty, misunderstood or like a stranger in your own family, and you'll feel compelled to purchase a few gifts that will induce similar feelings in someone else. And over the holidays in St. Louis, rock bands of yesteryear will reunite for the obligatory reunion shows. Three big-deal bands from years back are reuniting this week for one-offs: Sinister Dane, the Unconscious and T.H.U.G.S. A couple of other biggies from the past are returning to town: the Nukes and the Urge. Check the listings for dates.

More important, though, is the one St. Louis band whose members are, we hope, wise enough to resist the temptation to reunite in future years: Pave the Rocket. It's been rumored for a few years that Pave is on its last legs, and the band will be making it official Saturday, Dec. 30, when they give their farewell performance at the Rocket Bar.


Correction: In last week's review of the stellar Better Than Fruitcake CD, we flubbed the credits to a couple of songs. First, we credited Joshua Carter Wiese with writing "Scratches on the Door" when, in reality, it's a cover of a Freakwater song. Second, the Rockhouse Ramblers' "My Christmas Wish" only seems like a cover -- they penned it themselves. We apologize for our ignorance.

 
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