The Scene (#14): Showoff Plays the Fireside Bowl

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Me and my best friend Guth went to a few more Showoff gigs at the community center and got the chance to meet some incredible new bands from the area: The Plain White T’s, Morningside Drive, and Off Yourself – and we continued forging friendships with the other kids and the bands we’d already met like 007 and the Grand Marquis. But the simple fact was obvious; Showoff’s star was on the rise and they had clearly outgrown this venue.

As they moved on to bigger venues and expanded outward into the city of Chicago, we continued supporting them and the local scene in an incredible balancing act. It wasn’t uncommon for us to spend a Friday night out at the community center in the suburbs, and then head downtown to wherever Showoff was booked to play on Saturday night.

Because of Showoff’s local popularity, I got to experience the legendary Fireside Bowl for the first time.

Have you seen the movie The Break-Up with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anniston? That place they go bowling – that’s the Fireside Bowl. But I gotta tell ya, that’s not what it looked like back in the day!

The Fireside Bowl was Chicago’s punk rock equivalent to Berkeley’s 924 Gillman Street and New York’s CBGB’s – this place was legendary; as much for the great punk bands that graced their stage as they were for being grimy, dirty, and voted for years in a row by the Chicago Tribune as the worst bathrooms in all of Chicago. But if your band played on this stage, as far as the local punk rock community was concerned, you had made it!

I’ll never forget the first time I walked in the front door.

The musty smell of stale beer and dampness hit you. You had to be careful not to trip on the dirty, torn and frayed carpet. But there was also a huge sense of pride. Even though I wasn’t in the band Showoff, I could still puff my chest knowing that one of my best friends had made it to this stage and the shoulder to shoulder crowd that I was standing in the mix of was here to see them, too.

Some of the friends we made out at the community center, and even members of some of the other bands, also made the 45-minute drive out to the Fireside to support Showoff.

All it took was the drum roll of opening song “Backstab” for the crowd to embrace the moment as we were bounced back in forth in between the people moshing, holding our arms up above our heads to protect ourselves from the passing body surfers who had stage dived into the crowd, and pumping a fist in the air as we all screamed along with the lyrics.

One of my best friend’s had most definitely made it, and their next biggest moment was just around the corner! But even more importantly, I was beginning to understand that a scene isn’t just about being in one particular spot or another, but in how your local community supports those who come out of your own backyard!


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