It seems funny now that a downtown shopping mall with an Applebee’s and a Hard Rock Café would be considered a threat to Minneapolis’ underground music scene, but that fear was very real in June 2003 when Craig Finn returned to his hometown to headline the first two concerts at the Triple Rock Social Club.
This club’s opening “confirms that the scene’s not lying down — that independent music is still alive and thriving in the Twin Cities,” the future Hold Steady frontman told me, after relaying his contempt for the new Block E complex looming dangerously near to First Avenue at the time.
Block E is now the Mayo Sports Clinic complex, First Avenue is now the big kid on the block in more ways than one (although it did come close to closing a year later), and the Triple Rock is everything Finn said it would be: a bastion of indie music that very much helped keep the scene alive and thriving.
Or at least it will for another month.
News that rumbled through local music fans’ social-media feeds like a Stnnng song on 10, Triple Rock owners Gretchen and Erik Funk announced Monday that their grade-A music hall with the no-BS corner-bar vibe will close around Thanksgiving. They didn’t give any reasons yet, and since we owe them more than they owe us, they shouldn’t have to explain.
By coincidence or not (I vaguely suspect not), Finn makes a well-timed return to the West Bank club Friday touting his third and best solo record, a decade after his ’90s band Lifter Puller reunited for the first two shows there, and 13 years since his best-known group played a memorable two-night stand behind its first record.
Those Hold Steady shows would rank among my all-time favorites there, along with OFF!, Dinosaur Jr., release parties by the Plastic Constellations and Retribution Gospel Choir, Dawes’ first local gig, the Waxahatchee/Girlpool/Kitten Forever trifecta, Titus Andronicus, the Buzzcocks, the Sword with Zebulon Pike, a Heiruspecs-led Dre Day and the all-ages Doomtree Blowout show with my teenage niece in tow.
I’ll probably remember a dozen more, once all the awesome music nerds in town remind me of them when this story hits Twitter.
The Twin Cities area has seen some of its most treasured restaurants close in recent years — weeks, actually — but it’s been five years since a rock club of much significance closed. I’m quite sure there’s no chance the Triple Rock’s operators will threaten to reopen in the Mall of America like the 400 Bar guys did.
Let me start there in suggesting what should happen at the Triple Rock going forward: If new owners take on the challenge of keeping it a live music venue, let’s all be supportive and not act like the place lost all its cool just because Erik Funk’s bandmates in Dillinger Four can’t drink for free there anymore.
The people who run a bar go a long way in making it special, sure. Especially this bar. But as we learned at the Turf Club — which has endured two ownership changes in 12 years — special people are a lot easier to find than special live music rooms.
This place was meant to be a rock club, plain and simple.
The sound is better than in any other venue that size (yep, including the Entry). The tiered layout makes for good sight lines, unless you’re stuck in the back by the bar; which was never entirely a bad thing there. And its location near the Cedar, Nomad, Palmer’s and Cabooze still makes for the city’s nearest thing to an actual live entertainment strip, with the newer Somali and other African eateries a welcome addition to the energy at night.
Regardless of the building’s future, we know what the next month entails at the club. The other thing that should happen is the place should be packed to the gills every night between now and Thanksgiving.
We got the chance to bid farewell to the Uptown Bar when it closed in 2009, and it was beautiful. Just think of which appendage you would be willing to cut off to spend another night there, and apply that sentiment to the Triple Rock.
The club is giving us plenty of enticement just over the next week. I already got my tickets for the Dead Boys on Sunday (a mere $13 with only 3 more bucks in fees; that place is still punk to the bone). Japanese metalists Boris also perform on Saturday, and Girlpool returns Monday.
More than the touring bands, though, I would urge you to take in the kinds of bands that became the club’s bread and butter (despite the actual lack of bread to be made off them): the local acts you’ve probably never heard before. The Funks and their crew gave solace to a lot of the metal, punk, experimental, none-of-the-above bands and some hip-hop acts shut out by other venues.
Unless something replaces it, this town is about to get a lot more quiet. Let’s not let the Triple Rock go out quietly.
Rhymesayers is issuing Atmosphere’s first record, “Overcast!,” on vinyl for the first time next week to mark its 20th anniversary. The new edition includes some quite welcome remastering and previously unreleased tracks. … After earning a modest viral buzz with its debut album “Rich With Ambition” via Bandcamp last year, Spellbound — the new Twin Cities hip-hop duo with rapper/producer Orikal Uno and Drake Nite co-founder DJ Greenery — will make its live debut at 7th Street Entry on Oct. 28 opening for Blackalicious. …
Fresh off working in the studio with producer Kevin Bowe on a new album, Katy Vernon will head up another Uke Fest on Saturday at the Hook & Ladder, a tribute to her disabled brother that benefits Arc Greater Twin Cities (6:30 p.m., $12). Other strummers will include Mary Bue, Marlowe Teichman, Christian Erickson, Dave Randall plus the not-so-dangerous-sounding Minneapolis Ukulele Army. …
In another well-meaning event Saturday, singer/songwriter Ben Cook-Feltz will lead a tribute to Tom Petty at Day Block Brewing benefiting the Petty-endorsed Rock the Earth (8 p.m., $5 suggested). … Heiruspecs keyboardist DeVon “dVRG” Gray hosts a new all-star jam dubbed Redefined on Sunday at Honey in northeast Minneapolis (9 p.m.). …
The annual planning and networking seminar for local artists and musicians, Giant Steps, takes place Oct. 27 at Muse Event Center in Minneapolis, featuring panels, Q&As and mentoring sessions with everyone from professional musicians to tax attorneys. More details at GiantStepsMN.com.