I used to wake up in the morning with a word rubber-stamped on that hand or depending on how long ago "used to" means, with a big "X" hastily drawn in black Sharpie across it. In fact, in the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s, it would seem I had a permanent stain on that hand. A few times a week, me and some friends, sometimes just me would fork over the $3-$7 cover charge for an all-ages show somewhere in the Chicago-land area. More often than not, we were out west on Fullerton, about halfway between Western Ave. and California Ave. at a dingy, rundown shithole called the Fireside Bowl.
Last night I stumbled across this photo set and the flashbacks began. First I remembered the facade, the tan paneled exterior with the red trim and detail. The font that read "FIRESIDE BOWL". The giant bowling pin that falsely advertised "BOWLING". Though bowling did happen on occasion, it wasn't sport that made this beat-up building special. It was the incredible roster of bands that pulled up in broke-down vans hauling trailers filled with road-worn instruments.
I spent a good hour last night reading through all the old flyers posted here. I actually remembered picking up some of them and stuffing them in my bag after shopping at Reckless Records. I recalled the anticipation of first hearing about some of the shows listed. Most of all, I absolutely remember playing on that stage in the corner with my old band notaword, some of the shows we played are even listed on these flyers. It brought on a wave of nostalgia I haven't felt in a long time. Not an introspective what-the-hell-happened-to-me sort of experience, but a damn-those-are-good-memories sort of reminiscence.
I saw the last Los Crudos show there, the one where Martin jumped into the crowd and almost started a massive brawl not five feet away from me with the disgusting goth-punks hurling anti-gay insults at him. I saw Death Cab for Cutie open a four-band lineup, the first of many times I not only saw them because of another band, but also realized how terrible they are live. I played gigs with Appleseed Cast, Shiner, and An Albatross, who by the way used to have a name that was at least 20 words long and set up in the middle of the floor and destroyed a 7-minute set so incredibly that they were asked to stick around and play the late show as well. I met my first gay indie/punk/underground/whatever musician friends there and realized I could be a fag and still play in rock bands.
The Fireside Bowl will always hold some of my greatest memories. The last time notaword played there we all snagged a bowling pin as a keepsake. That was in 2001, maybe 2002? A while ago. I still have the bowling pin. It looks as beat up as the venue itself: chipped, stained, dented, battered by years of abuse. I've amassed quite a few nice things in the years since, but that single grimy bowling pin, certainly standing out among the Jonathan Adler pottery, numerous pieces of art, and pricey modern furniture will always be one of the most special artifacts decorating my house, no matter how far away I live from both the place or the era.