Maybe it's the karaoke. Maybe it's increasingly harsh DUI laws. Maybe it's the fact that every douchebag hipster with a Mac and blogger buddies thinks he's a DJ. Whatever the reason, it's been a bad era for the rock club. Anyone who likes to listen to live music on a small scale will tell you America is hemorrhaging concert clubs.
The re-opening of Long Wong's, Arizona's best-known rock club before it was shuttered, then demolished, back in 2004, has us thinking a lot about those missing music venues. And not just here. Here are America's top 10 now-closed meccas for live music. Many of these we've been to, a few we just wish we'd been to. All of them are dearly missed by their former patrons.
In the spirit of Long Wong's probable rebirth as a live music venue -- instead of its current role as just a well-regarded chain of wing joints with no connection to the Mill Ave. nightspot -- we've also included two clubs that re-opened after lengthy hiatuses, capturing some of their former mojo.
10. Mabuhay Gardens
Where: San Francisco, California
Claims to fame: A rowdy emcee who insulted the crowds of punk kids to incite their fury was a big part of the allure. Any old punk band you can think of played there: The Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Black Flag, The Dictators,The Damned, Devo, Iggy Pop, The Ramones, Hüsker Dü, D.O.A., The Screamers, Minutemen.
Now: There's another venue, called Club 443, on the spot.
9. The Gold Dollar
Where: Detroit, Michigan.
Claims to fame: Home base for the Detroit garage rock scene that gave the world The White Stripes (who played their first show there), Soledad Brothers, Electric 6, Bantam Rooster, The Gore Gore Girls, etc.
Now: Like most of Detroit, it's now an abandoned wasteland. Check out the Google map.
8. The Bottom Line
Where: New York City
Claims to fame: Sure, Bob, Baez and the gang hung out at Greenwich Village's Bottom Line. But so did Lou Reed, who recorded a live record at this small and eclectically booked club. Bruce Springsteen offered to pay $190,000 to get this joint out of the hole if it's landlord, New York University, would give it a new lease, to no avail.
Now: NYU students take classes there. Sigh.
7. The Stone Pony
Where: Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Closed: 1998, re-opened in 2000.
Best Eulogy (A tribute band named for the venue.)
Claims to fame: Speaking of Springsteen... The future of rock 'n' roll was seen here. It's name? Well, you know. Also, as one official from the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame said: "The club has already earned its place in history as one of rock 'n' roll's great venues. Most rock critics and historians that I come in contact with on a regular basis feel that The Stone Pony is one of the greatest rock clubs of all time."
Now: It's back, baby.
6. The House of Blues
Where: Boston, Mass.
Closed: 2003, sort-of re-opening.
Claims to fame: If you've been to one of the soul-less HOB clones now populating American markets you'd have to wonder why anyone would go out of their way to visit one. Well, this Boston landmark, opened by Dan Aykroyd, really did have a reputation worth ripping off. Or so people say. We were never there, and don't really dig the practice of re-naming other cities' beloved venues "House of Blues," but this one was definitely legendary.
Now:It's a Red Lobster. Just kidding, the spot is apparently for rent.
Where: Hollywood, California
Best Eulogy: Appetite for Destruction.
Claims to fame: This Sunset Strip nightspot has the distinction of employing both The Doors and Van Halen as house bands and being the filming location for Huey Lewis and the News' "The Heart of Rock In Roll." Said heart may still be beating in Cleveland (at, say, The Beachland Ballroom) but it's dead here.
Now: It's another club, of course.
4. Long Wong's
Where: Tempe, Arizona.
Claims to fame: The Gin Blossoms, Refreshments, and pretty much everyone else who invented the jangle-pop guitar sound of mid-'90s un-grunge alternative music called this place home. It's loss is felt even more deeply in a city with such a shortage of quality venues.
Now: A parking lot across from an out-of-business Borders Books.
3. Lounge Ax
Where: Chicago, Illinois.
Claims to fame: This small club in the city's Lincoln Park neighborhood wasn't around long, but it burned brightly during mid-1990s, when alt-country ruled in the Windy City. Lounge Ax often hosted The Old 97s, Kelly Hogan, and countless other Bloodshot Records acts during that label's early days. Co-owner/promoter Sue Miller even wound up marrying alt-country icon Jeff Tweedy. The club, which also appeared in the movie High Fidelity, was in a constant battle with its Lincoln Park neighbors. In 1996, a compilation called The Lounge Ax Defense and Relocation Compact Disc (featuring big indie acts such as Jesus Lizard, Yo La Tengo, Shellac, Guided By Voices, and Sebadoh) raised money to help pay for its legal troubles. The club eventually closed 10 years ago next week with a show headlined by de facto house band The Coctails.
Now: Possible the worst fate of any spot on out list, Lounge Ax is now Soiree Bar: "The atmosphere and décor are heavily influenced by the trendy urban culture of Chicago. Complete with soft Brazilian pine walls, elevated leather lounge areas." Someone, please, burn it down.
2. The Crocodile Cafe
Where: Seattle, Washington.
Closed: 2007, re-opened in 2009.
Claims to fame: "The Cradle of Grunge" was the epicenter of the Seattle scene that birthed the Grunge movement: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc. It closed after the owners got divorced, but is now re-opened.
Now: Re-opened and marvelously successful.
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Where: The Bowery, New York City
Claims to fame: Probably the most famous rock club in the world. By the end, this place was a parody of itself, selling $50 T-shirts to Midwestern rubes on vacation, but there's no denying the history that was made here.
Now: It's a high-end men's fashion store. Oof.