***all photos by Kyle Lehman Photography, taken 9/10/16 at Arms Aloft album release***
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.