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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Firebird Celebrates Six Years With a Little Help From Its Friends

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 3:23 AM

Page 2 of 2

Mike Cracchiolo - TOM CARLSON
  • Tom Carlson
  • Mike Cracchiolo

"I think Firebird is one of the last great weird, off-the-beaten-path kind of places," he adds. "To me, it's definitely the places that have that kind of weird charm -- places that are maybe little bit difficult -- and wondering why it is that way. If you're not wondering that, then there's not a whole lot to talk about."

Any musician who has been forced to drag a refrigerator-sized cabinet up a flight of narrow stairs or nearly frozen to death on a stage located two feet from a venue's front door in the middle of winter should understand this sentiment. Any music lover who has walked down an alley and knocked on what they hoped was a door leading to a club should, too. These inconveniences and discomforts are often the ties that hold the memory of the experience together.

Not that the Firebird's location was specifically sought out for weirdness.

"There's a lot of serendipity involved in anything that works. There's always sort of a stumbling into something really cool," Cracchiolo says. "Every room has its own character, its own history. It's shaped by the people who work there."

In this way, the venue is currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts -- the club's fifth anniversary marked the end of an era, when Bert McClimans, long-time Firebird crew member and the primary talent buyer, moved on to other endeavors.

"Everything happens when it's supposed to happen," says Cracchiolo. "With the departure of Bert McClimans, who was an integral part of booking, it kind of forced me back into that seat. At the time I thought it was terrible to get thrown back into that. But I realized I'm still pretty good at this. It's not the worst thing in the world, and it's a good opportunity for me to train some people."

In McClimans' absence, the remaining Firebird crew members have stepped up to the plate. "Before, it was like me and Bert hunkered down against the world, then in time Bert took over the majority of it and I got to have a little bit of a breather, and now it's more of a collective effort," Cracchiolo explains.

Aside from a few small changes here and there, the venue has largely been built by its original team. "The door staff and the bar staff have remained pretty much the same. There's really not a whole lot of people who have worked there and aren't there anymore. Once they're there, they kind of stick. It's a family."

With a lease which requires commitment in three-year intervals, Cracchiolo and Co. have made the decision to sign on again.

"We've seen venues come and go since we've opened. I didn't anticipate how many places would spring up. By that same token, I couldn't anticipate that we would have outlasted as many as we have," he says. "There wasn't a clear road map. There wasn't a goal in sight. I was in my twenties and thought, 'It would be really cool if...' And then all those things happened."

The Firebird's Six-Year Anniversary Weekend 8 p.m. Friday, February 20, and Saturday, February 21. The Firebird, 2706 Olive Street. $8 each night. 314-535-0353.

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