I've got a whole city to hold down

August 23, 2004

Fire extinguished

With little notice and even less fanfare, the Fireside Bowl's long run as a rock venue appears to be over.

Promoter Brian Peterson of MP Shows posted this message to his site, attributed to Fireside manager Hammer: "Hey guys, Jimmy [owner Jim Lapinski] said get the fuck out, bowling is making a big comeback so we are going to go for it, I will miss you all, please make sure to stop by and say hello...Jimmy wanted me to tell you that your [sic] all Satan worshipers [sic], and that your bands suck, so join the Army Reserves where you can be all that you can be, OK? Now get the fuck out."

The last show, held Saturday night, was Bad Wizard with the Witnesses, the Dutchmen and Von Sass. The venue had a full slate of gigs booked already, and most have been relocated to the Bottom Lounge and elsewhere, though some - like the Gin Palace Jesters show scheduled for 8/27 - have been cancelled.

The move came as a surprise despite recently swirling whispers, which years of threats to raze the place entirely had conditioned observers to ignore.

Ironically, the Fireside's demise as a rock venue follows by just three months a Reader column that declared its future rosy. At the time, we questioned that column's sourcing; in retrospect, the basis for Bob Mehr's claim that the Fireside's future was "secure" (an observation that "the club has started spending more money on upkeep -- not the behavior of people who know they're running a doomed operation," plus some vaguely friendly comments from the local alderman) looks laughably thin. Apart from failing to substantiate its conclusions with any confirmation from Fireside ownership, management or staff, the piece's big mistake was assuming that the only threat to rock at the Fireside came from the city. Of course, scene vets will recall that after ages of consternation with cops and inspectors, Lounge Ax too was done in not by Daley but the building's owner.

Make no mistake, this loss is a painful one. Sure the Fireside was a grubby hole and a firetrap, but it was spunky, dirt-cheap, and more than anything egalitarian. No matter how lowly your band, how young your age, how thin your wallet or how outre your particular punk fashion fetish, you could get in the door at the Fireside, or up on its stage (such as it wasn't), and into the company of kids like you.