By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
The funeral bells tolled this week for two stalwart clubs -- the great South City folk and singer/songwriter club Off Broadway (which was finally sold after being on the market for about a decade) and the Firehouse.
Over the years, Off Broadway was responsible for countless transcendent shows and provided a stage for artists who would later go on to achieve greater success (the Dixie Chicks gigged there regularly before getting fashion and musical makeovers). Even more important, though, was the club's dedication to local musicians. Off Broadway was always open to new sounds: Uncle Tupelo and the Bottle Rockets (and Chicken Truck before them) played some of their best early shows there. In fact, reading through a list of bands that performed at Off Broadway conjures up a bevy of past greats: The Atomic Fossils, the Electric Sheep, Three Foot Thick, Three Merry Widows, Wagon, the Bishops and the Boorays jammed there (though the club drew the line just to the right of Blind Idiot God, whose seminotorious OB show in the early '90s resulted in a lot of bad blood on the part of the punk community)
The booking policy became much more conservative in the late '90s, and the club settled into booking twangy, inoffensive rock (the Waco Brothers were too hard for Off Broadway's tastes), blues and folk, and though the space could have been used for a more varied aesthetic, what the club did, it did well, and the Camarata family, who owned the place, will be missed. The club will be renamed -- and we pray that the name being bandied about is just a rumor. If it's not, this doesn't bode well; the proposed change is a hideous one.
Also gone is the Firehouse, which closed this past weekend. We've already published their obit, so we won't do it again. But two clubs in the 500-capacity range are gone -- what's left?
Glad you asked. The Galaxy is left, safe and sound as a result of its just-inked contract with the SFX conglomerate, which will begin booking shows at the club pronto. Believe it or not, this is good news for concertgoers in much the same way as the opening of the Pageant was good news. It means that the 900-pound SFX gorilla will be using its heft to get big names into the club. Given the high quality of the Pageant's bookings since it opened, that's a good thing. The SFX press release accompanying the news, though, is kind of funny, as though the outfit had ridden in like the Lone Ranger to save a menaced heroine. Especially funny is the contention that "the Galaxy was put on the map years ago by SFX (then Contemporary Productions) but amicably split with the promoter in the late '90s." Contemporary did not "put the Galaxy on the map"; the Galaxy -- and, before that, 1227 -- was already on the map, booking great gigs on its own. That pairing was mutually beneficial; this one seems to be as well. We'll see.