Thursday, 5 August 2010

Boarding the wayback machine

I can't wait to see this documentary on Memphis' legendary Antenna Club, a place I practically lived in the period 1982 - 85, and visited/played at with varying frequency over subsequent years. I know pretty much everyone interviewed here (nice to see you all again!), including surprise appearances by my old schoolmate Laura Goodman, and the young woman I am 99.5% sure is my late classmate Jamie Thomas, and I am amazed at how the makers have managed to get their hands on some of the footage seen here.

For those unable to remember a time before the internet, it's probably impossible to convey just how significant this club (and other clubs like it around the country) was to the lives of those who gathered there to play or listen to music. It gave us a sense of connection to the outside world, as well as a nexus for all the various strands of local music to attract, intertwine, or repel.

I played more gigs there than I can possibly recall, some of which I'm still proud of, and also witnessed or perpetrated a number of heinous crimes against music. I also was privileged to catch amazing shows by a very young R.E.M. (whose first single had just been released, and whose equipment had been stolen from their van the night before, requiring that they borrow kit from opening act Barking Dog), N.R.B.Q., Firehose, The Replacements, The Meat Puppets (twice), Shockabilly, and many others by now forgotten bands, local and otherwise, all of which stay with me to this day.

It would be easy, however, to get caught up in the nostalgia and ignore the fact that many of us who frequented the club had a love/hate relationship with it. It was an unpleasant environment: smoky, claustrophobic, oppressively hot, filthy (even the "dressing room" for bands was unspeakable), and depending on the night the management could be a bit surly. And as it developed more or less into a local monopoly over time, musicians and fans began to look for other places to play and listen. Thus, Antenna's repelling effect was arguably the catalyst for other scenes to take shape: Fred's Hideout, Barristers, The Pyramid Club, The Loose End/Epicenter Lounge, Barristers 2 (which I am proud to say I booked the first show into), and others I am no doubt forgetting for the moment.

It was by turns seductive and repugnant, glorious and embarrassing, a jewel in the crown of Memphis' chequered and confused cultural heritage, and it was important. I miss it, sometimes.

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