Article and photos by Kasey McKee
Today is the Triple Rock Social Club’s final day of operation.
So a bar is closing. Big deal. Happens all the time, right? Such is the conventional wisdom.
While I can’t lay claim to being a regular at the Triple Rock, I will say that I have been going to shows there (regularly) for several years, and it has impressed me in the following ways:
It has been affordable. A five-dollar cover was pretty much standard, and I only paid more than ten dollars once, to see a national act.
It has been a music club that has felt safe and inclusive, and one that values female musicians artists as full participants, rather than novelties.
Lutheran Heat and Bug Fix
It has been a club that has taken chances with performances, like last summer’s Tribute to Bones Malone, a theater piece. I have seen many strange and perplexing acts perform there, and I feel I am the better for having seen them.
It has been an attainable career goal for many Twin Cities bands: prestigious, but always within reach.
It has been a bar where you could be sure you’d see a familiar face. There was a palpable sense of community and belonging, from the graffiti on the walls to the intimacy of the half-room shows.
What impressed me most, though, is that it was a Punk Rock venue.
Arms Aloft and Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band
It’s been said that Punk, along with Hip-Hop, is the folk music of our era, a form of expression that is accessible to even the least technically-skilled among us. Anybody can do it, and it’s music that embraces the rough edges as part of the package. Punk: the music of the disenchanted, those who are frustrated with the status quo, who harbor that spark of creative passion in a world of enforced conformity and stultifying prospects (“No future,” as Johnny Rotten once snarled).
Last night’s show at the Triple Rock was a Punk experience of the highest order. The entertainment featured six bands: Lutheran Heat, Bug Fix, Arms Aloft, Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band, Citric Dummies, and a surprise performance by the Dillinger Four. It was all there: the energy, the community, the music.
There was outspoken political commentary, like when Arms Aloft guitarist Seth Gile said to a cheering crowd:
“I just have two things to say: Fuck Donald Trump, period. And fuck all the people who surround Donald Trump, double period.”
There were defiant gestures, like the brilliant moment when Nato Coles and company all took the stage smoking cigarettes.
Citric Dummies and Tigger Lunney
There was biting satire, like when Citric Dummies vocalist Drew Ailes introduced their song “I’m Gonna Win (The Super Bowl)”:
“This is a song about a guy who dreamed about winning the Super Bowl because he thought he would make a lot of friends and they would all visit him, but it turned out they were the wrong kind of friends…”
Then there was the frenzy of the slam-dancers, the kids tossed about by the chaos of the crowd, pushed down, only to be helped back up by those around them. Some, in a moment of sublime transcendence, were lifted high above the crowd itself.
Much like last week’s show organized by UnderCurrentMpls (on November 13th), the mood was bittersweet. A night of spectacular performances, but haunted by the specter of the inevitable.
Throughout the night, I overheard those around me who talked about wanting to buy the fixtures, to take home a piece of the bar. One attendee jokingly mentioned scaling the wall outside to nick the iconic sign. I don’t think this was the behavior of mere scavengers. Rather, it seemed like the only way of expressing a sense of loss, a desire to retain some tangible evidence of a place that has meant so much.
While I can sympathize, I feel like the meaning isn’t in the physical trappings—the bricks and the bar and the black plastic backdrop. The meaning is in how such a location can bring people together and form a shared experience. It’s the intangible way that a certain place can make you feel at home, like you belong somewhere. It’s a very delicate thing. It may be corny, clichéd, Christmas-movie stuff, but isn’t that the real lesson to be learned from the Triple Rock Social Club?
Because ultimately, when the doors finally close, all that is left will be a few photographs and the memories that were formed between its walls.