Last Call

We remember Frederick's Music Lounge

Concerts mean different things to different people. To some, last week's sold-out Sigur Rós show at the Pageant was no different than any other night out on the town, an excuse to guzzle beer and giggle loudly with friends.

But to A to Z and her cohorts, the Icelandic band's transcendent two-hour show was a chance to lose ourselves in music — to smile in wonder at the group's avalanche-roars of noise and cherubic vocals, or shed a tear (or two) at the fragile sadness intrinsic to their songs.

The same subjectivity prevailed at last week's sweaty, crowded Smoking Popes show at the Creepy Crawl, the first St. Louis show for the Chicago band in seven years. Some in the audience found solace in the band's depressing music owing to a fresh breakup; others rejoiced at seeing the band for the first time and found happiness in the band's Alkaline Trio-meets-Morrissey vibe.

It's bittersweet now to say that Frederick's Music Lounge meant different things to different people — because with its closing, there's a universal sense of sadness and wistfulness inextricably tied to the venue. One of the first places former Radar Station guru Jordan Harper took A to Z when she came to town for her interview was Fred's. Through an appropriately alcohol-fueled haze, we could tell the bar was special. Especially enthralling that night was the stuffed deer head dancing jubilantly to the music.

Anytime we went into Fred's after taking this job, the bar unsurprisingly felt like a home, with movies playing cheerfully on the TV, people in the neighborhood coming by for a happy-hour shot — and, of course, Fred Friction either tending bar or just shooting the shit with everybody. The intimacy of the stage couldn't be beat. (Heck, Waterloo dedicated us a song not five feet from where we — blushing — sat.)

The spirit of Fred's lives on with a new Thursday music night, the lo-fi, collaborative acoustic "Chippewa Chapel Traveling Guitar Circle & Medicine Show" (on March 2 taking place at the Royale, 3132 Kingshighway; 314-772-3600). But in honor of the bar, A to Z decided to let some of those who made the venue what it was share their memories.

The bar was first a place that would let us play....which is a pretty big deal when we first started out. It turned into a family reunion after a few visits. We tour a helluva lot, and Fred made Frederick's a sort of rock & roll vacation spot for us. A place we looked forward to weeks and hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away. Chris Flint, Two Cow Garage

St. Louis is losing an institution as far as I'm concerned. Fred Friction never treated a band badly and always paid them fairly. I'm going to miss that bubble machine. I'm going to miss that damn singing deer head. I'm going to miss being yelled at that it's time to leave. I'm going to miss some of the best shows I've seen in St. Louis — from Nadine's final show to the Dresden Dolls' St. Louis debut to various Diesel Island shows to the Handsome Family to Kevin Gordon to Jon Dee Graham to Tommy Womack, and on and on. John Wendland, Rough Shop

Fred's birthed our last band, the Whole Sick Crew. Fred gave us a chance when we were just dumb, sub-punk incompetents. Dana and Trish (bartenders) gave us high-fives. Like a jock strap, Fred's supported. Like a cup, it protected us from the ball-kicks of the naysayers. And like a pair of tight shorts, it kept and held all the warmth and stench of its occupants. There won't be a "new Fred's" — just a hangover that lasts forever. Brien Seyle, The Rats and People

Some nights the place was packed, but just as often, it wasn't. More than once, there were more band members in the house than audience members. An average night was probably in the 30-people range, and given the size of the room, that felt just fine. On nights when turnout was low, Paul would bring a couple of tables in to fill in that uncomfortable space up front and bring people closer to the band. One time, Fred brought a blanket and some snack food out and set up a little picnic in front of the band. Rick Wood, Twangfest board of directors

I loved Fred's. I hated Fred's. I remember when Fred Sr. ran it as a punch-the-clock full-time drunk joint. I saw my future in slumped figures pushing quarters for Stags and Social Security bourbons. Fellow future old-timer Chris King introduced me to the out-of-tune piano sing-alongs, which evolved into the absurd but communitarian Noiseday Hoots. The smoke was like mustard gas and the sound was like a Guantanamo torture broadcast, but the club was a shelter from the yuppie storm, and something irreplaceably degenerate and beautiful has been lost. Roy Kasten,RFT freelancer

Fredericks has been a real oasis to us. We always knew, no matter how fucked up the rest of the tour schedule might become, we always felt like we had a home in St. Louis, and that when we got to Frederick's things would be okay. Made a lot of new friends in that room and always felt like it was a grand extension of my own living room. The vibe of the club has always been kinda, "Oh shit the party got too big for the living room, let's have a Stag!" Pretty nice situation to walk into, as an artist. Dave Insley

There was the Tuesday night [when] a songwriting duo was playing onstage and asked Fred to sit in on spoons. (Fred was a genius on spoons — no really!) The song they played was sweet, soft and sad — and I can't really explain this, but Fred somehow created a kind of magic performance that brought to mind something of Charlie Chaplin, Bob Dylan, a dance done by Fred Astaire and an animated side show of light percussion. Strangely enough, I wanted nothing so much as to almost cry. Bob Reuter, Fred's doorman

Frederick's actually accomplished what many other bars try to: He made you feel like you were at home, because he was actually inviting you into his house when you played there. Sara Oberst, That's My Daughter

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