This weekend I attended Last Call, the big two-day sendoff for EC music scene staple House of Rock. It was an emotional event, and I witnessed people both on stage and off literally shed tears over the closing of this venue. I knew before attending Last Call that House of Rock was EC’s preeminent place for live music and that for many–myself included–it held numerous special memories and personal significance…but seeing these feelings and memories boil over for friends and strangers alike in a dramatic, physical way made it that much clearer to me: we lost more than just a tangible space this past weekend.
…for many House of Rock was home.
However, it is not us wistful weepers that I’m most concerned about, because we are the lucky ones who got to experience the place in its heyday. We got to raise toasts, dance, mosh, sing along to our favorite songs arm-in-arm with our closest pals — and we have the gift of the shows, friendships, and memories formed there forever.
…the people I’m most concerned for are those who–at least in the intermediate–will perhaps not get to experience having a similar space to inhabit and make a home of.
With the Confluence Project underway and other venues in the area stepping up to fill the gap left by House of Rock’s closing there is plenty of reason to be hopeful, but House of Rock was admittedly one of the few places in the area that was fully and specifically dedicated to hosting live shows and additionally provided both a major league PA and sound engineers. I know from talking to friends in bands that playing that first show on the House of Rock’s system was an irreplaceable thrill. Field Report‘s Chris Porterfield spoke to this when interviewed by Volume One about House of Rock’s closing (check out their great feature on HoR here):
“The House of Rock was the first place I ever played that had a full dedicated sound system and professional sound engineers. Prior to playing the House of Rock, we played shows in basements, VFWs, skate shops, coffee shops – places with cobbled together PA systems. Playing the House of Rock felt like we had leveled up into a more professional world, like our hard work was paying off. Playing with real monitors, engineers who knew how to help and cared enough to do it, stage lights, a green room – it felt like we had a place to really learn how to be on a stage. And it was right down the street.”
…for local bands House of Rock was a place that made you feel like a real rock-star, and the excitement people felt playing there certainly translated to those of us in the crowd. It was THE stage to play for local bands and therefore THE venue to catch shows at for us music fans.
I certainly hope that another space in Eau Claire can come to fill this void and become such a venue, but establishing oneself as such a place is also something that isn’t just a matter of the right sound equipment or the right bookings…it takes time. It won’t happen overnight, and for music makers and fans in the Chippewa Valley who are either brand new to the area or who are only just becoming old enough to attend 21+ shows, this ostensibly means they may be without the kind of musical homebase many of us got to enjoy in the House of Rock. If they’re here for the long haul hopefully they will ultimately find such a place, but looking ahead to the next couple years (and considering we’re a college town where people often spend 4-5 years here and then move elsewhere) I’m sure there will be those that unfortunately come and go from EC without ever developing the deep ties to our music scene they may otherwise have. This is a loss for these individuals and also for the music scene as a whole. We need a place that will serve as the centerpiece of our music community, a place that will–like House of Rock before it–keep people excited enough about local music that they both support it and create it.
So if you, like me, spent this past weekend at House of Rock with whiskey on your breath and a lump in your throat, there’s no mistaking the fact we have lost something wonderful…but now it’s time for those of us that were lucky enough to get to enjoy many years of great shows at House of Rock to work together to ensure the next generations of area music fans have the same opportunities to make the kind of memories we are currently mourning.
With the House of Rock closing its doors an era is undoubtedly ending in our live music scene. For nearly two decades now they have worked tirelessly to provide a home and nurturing space for young talent.
Once these musicians blossomed the House of Rock provided them and countless touring acts a stage to play on and crowds that were ready to rock.
So, in the waning days of this institution it’s only fitting that we all pay tribute in the best way we can – by going to concerts.
This final lineup of House of Rock shows is a love letter to this scene, from the house that many of us considered a home.
Eau Claire has maintained a reputation for having a vibrant music scene for many years now, and that acclaim only continues to grow further with the formation of the Eaux Claires festival and a new album from EC’s most famous resident. In addition to all things Justin Vernon the Chippewa Valley holds within it active scenes from multiple genres of music including punk, metal, folk, hip-hop, electronic, jazz, and more, and the artists making and performing this music can be seen weekly in the venues, bars, and basements of the Sawdust City.
Eau Claire, though, is quickly becoming more and more on the national radar for something else too…comedy! The Chippewa Valley is now home to a burgeoning stand-up scene. At the heart of it is a group of local comedians who go by Clear Water Comedy and who book, produce, promote, and perform on a weekly show at The Plus and other additional shows and events around the Chippewa Valley.
Clear Water Comedy formed a little over a year and a half ago and have since steadily grown from shows featuring exclusively local comics to now pulling in national headliners with credits like The Tonight Show, Comedy Central, Parks & Rec, Master of None, @midnight, Conan, Inside Amy Schumer, and more. Eau Claire has become a place where names like Kyle Kinane, Joe Mande, Aparna Nancherla and others can be seen. For those who like to laugh, this is an exciting development.
The beautiful thing about the size of the arts scene here in EC is that it’s big enough to continue growing and sustaining itself but it’s still small enough to be close-knit. There’s a lot of friendship and crossover from the well-established music scene and the newly minted standup scene. The best example of this is The Standup Getdown show that has popped up a few times and is now slated for a 4th outing later tonight. It’s a free event that showcases both EC’s music and comedy scenes on the same stage.
We’ve assembled more info on the Getdown’s music artists and some tracks to sample so that those of you who are new to both EC music and comedy can know a little more about what you’re in for:
Sniffle Party & Two Castles
Two Castles is the moniker of EC artist Eric Christenson. Eric’s solo music as Two Castles is lo-fi synth pop, melancholy yet danceable. He is also the producer/beatmaker that collaborated with vocalist/lyricist Serena Wagner (aka Sniffle Party) to bring her dream-pop debut EP “Peach Dream” to life. Two Castles and Sniffle Party were voted #3 and #2 favorite electronic artists in the Chippewa Valley in this year’s Volume One reader’s poll, and Sniffle Party was also voted one of the “Best New Bands”!
Blvck Spirit is name of EC poet and rapper Sheikh Jammeh. Sheikh’s poetry has been featured in NOTA and by Twig and he has so far put out two singles under his Blvck Spirit moniker.
Doks Robotiks are an EC/MPLS hip-hop group that mix an old-school influence with a modern sensibility. Doks combines catchy jazz and funk instrumentation with lyrics that are brimming with positive, meaningful messages; Doks have a surefire recipe to make you feel good.