I actually received word of this Monday morning via email and I think I read about it in the Sun-Times later that day. Picking up this week's copy of the Reader, I read another blurb about the Fireside's closing as a music club. Then it dawned on me...a Chicago music landmark for 10 years is ceasing operations and I've yet to write about it for Radio Free Chicago...
So did I just flake out because of its rather inconspicuous closing? I have been popping a lot of cold medicine lately...maybe I should use that as an excuse?
Actually, the real truth is that I just really didn't care. I read that email Monday morning...shrugged to myself, "oh well," and continued on with my usual business. While I always did like the Fireside's gritty charm and its cheap drinks, it was an awful place to see a show. The PA was always obnoxiously loud and the sound quality was terrible. Audience space was cramped and the lighting was brutal. Most of all, I didn't like the bands that usually played there...shitty indie-rawk bands and annoying ska-punk emo dorks.
Of course, these are the things that made a Fireside a legendary venue, famous throughout the Midwest and beyond. In addition to the ghetto-mystique of the place, it also was the one venue that always held all-ages shows. While teens in most cities have to resort hanging out at the mall or the corner 7-11, Chicago-area minors actually had a hip place to hang out and see their favorite punk bands.
However, Fireside owner Jim Lapinski didn't exactly see the charm in running an oasis for Chicago's young punks and indie-rockers. "The kids destroyed the place," said Lapinski in an article for Metromix.com.
According to the article, Lapinski wants to resurrect the Fireside as a legitimate bowling alley again because apparently the sport has become popular again. However, the real reason seems to be that "a recent spate of bowling alley closures in Chicago has opened up an opportunity to snap up their used equipment and draw some of their established leagues." Sorry underage music fans, you've lost your favorite venue because some old guy was able to salvage some old pins and ball lifts for his run-down alley.
OK, that was a bit harsh...and who am I to talk? I didn't even like the shows there??
Life goes on in the Chicago music scene for the 21 and over crowd, but this certainly puts a dent in the scene for the youngsters. However, it seems like cities as large as Chicago are usually able to bounce back from venue closings as other joints pick up the slack or new ones pop up. Remember how much it sucked that Lounge Ax was closing? While the space was irreplaceable, the Empty Bottle quickly picked up the slack and became the preeminent underground club in the city. (a great little space, amazing talent booking and $1 beers available everyday...the Bottle almost makes me say, "Lounge who??...what was that place called?")
As long as the Fireside doesn't raise the prices at their bar, I'm not complaining. Hell, I might even stop by sometime to bowl a few frames. However, for the sake of Chicago music scene, hopefully someone will soon start a new place where the future indie-rockers of the world can hang out and hone their musical chops.
(What are your thoughts about the closing?? Post your comments and feel free to share your favorite stories about hanging out at the 'Bowl)