The doors billowed with steam as cold air poured into the Triple Rock Social Club from outside and the entire sold-out crowd was singing along to “More Than a Feeling.”
When the music faded out, Dillinger Four bassist/co-vocalist/jibber-jabberer Patrick Costello, acknowledging the end of an era, said, “We will find a bar for you to do drugs, drink liquor, and listen to Boston.”
And that bar will be found—but it’s never going to be the Triple Rock. This final show was very much an Irish wake for a venue that has hosted thousands of shows by bands that, once upon a time, wouldn’t have found a place to play at all in the Twin Cities.
The room filled in a slow trickle during the opening acts but had reached maximum capacity by the time a pipe and drum band began its mournful march from the front of the old bar into the venue, circling up on the show floor for a short performance that really kicked the show into high gear.
Shortly after the pipers finished, Negative Approach took the stage. While every opener had taken a moment to talk about the Triple Rock, NA vocalist John Brannon—whose game face is scary to look at when he’s just sitting in the green room having a beer—just grabbed his mic, barked “Let’s do this,” and proceeded to peel the faces off the crowd with a blistering, 20-song set that included classics like “Can’t Tell No One” and “Negative Approach” (ah, the good old days, when every hardcore band had a song that was also their name) as well as a cover of Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout.” The band that essentially invented classic hardcore, equally brutal in its speed and anger, took the entire show floor—from stage to drink rails—and turned into a gigantic circle pit.
Which leads us to the swan song: Dillinger Four. They’d just come off a short unannounced free set the night before, and for both sets were tighter (and, everyone says this about them, but more sober) than I’ve seen them in a long time. They even played “Open and Shut,” from their first seven-inch, a song Costello told me he’d had to relearn by watching 16-year-old kids covering it on YouTube. Throughout the set, Costello and guitarist Billy Morrisette took moments to address the crowd about the closing, but guitarist/vocalist Erik Funk, who opened the business with his wife Gretchen 19 years ago, struggled with his own words. “I want to say something, but I just can’t. I just can’t do it.”
Luckily Costello’s got words for days. “There’s no way we should be playing after Negative Approach,” he said. “We weren’t the first band, but goddammit, we’re going to be the last band to play this stage.”
I’d expected some degree of over-the-top anarchy, but there was something somber in the hard-partying crowd, and outside of a rotation of stage divers (of questionable quality), no one rushed the stage or grabbed a mic for a singalong—it was D4’s space, and people wanted them to have it. In the crowd staff and long-time regulars openly wept. Late in the set the two show room bartenders, Sean Stewart and Nathan “TicTak” Anderson, deserted the bar and arrived on stage and presented the band with the last four Budweisers in the club, then watched the last part of the set while everyone wondered if there was anyone behind the almost completely dry bar.
D4 closed with a string of their most popular songs, but it was “Gainesville,” which Funk dedicated to Gretchen, that seemed most apropos that night. As the crowd sang “Let’s go before we’re old/ Time doesn’t wait for me,” it sounded like a prayer for the world’s more irreverent bar.
Critic’s bias: In the past month, I’ve probably written close to 10,000 words about Triple Rock Social Club, the people of Triple Rock Social Club, and bands playing Triple Rock Social Club. I was there on opening night, December 4, 1998, and I was glad to be there for its end. I have seen a bajillion D4 shows, eaten a bajillion plates of biscuits and gravy, and been to or performed at a bajillion shows at Triple Rock Social Club. Since I was designated driver last night, I can say without equivocation this was the most sober I’ve ever been in that room.
Notes on the openers: The Slow Death, Victory, and Kitten Forever—who will probably never end up on the same stage ever again—were all excellent and gave the entire show this weird throw-back early ‘90s vibe when weird mixed bills at places like Speedboat Gallery were common. As the joke that I just made up goes, “Q: What happens when a pop-punk band, an oi band, and a riot grrrl band play a show together? A: The venue closes.”
The crowd: Surprisingly enough, the room was not full of ticket bots. For all the complaining about longtime customers being shut out of the last show, there were plenty of familiar faces. Some people hadn't been there in years. Some people had never been there before. But by the end it was a huge group of folks mourning together.
Random notebook dump: The club ran out of food two days ago but Sasquatch Sandwiches braved the cold in their food truck so people could eat. You should eat their food. It’s amazing.
Overheard in the crowd: [At approximately 8:30 p.m.] “It’s been an hour and I’ve only served a drink to one person I recognize.”
Negative Approach setlist
Whatever I Do
Can't Tell No One
Sick of Talk
Said and Done
Live Your Life
Ready to Fight
Borstal Breakout (Sham 69 cover)
Friend or Foe
Dillinger Four setlist
Superpowers Enable Me to Blend in with Machinery
Mosh For Jesus
Minimum Wage Is a Gateway Drug
A Jingle For the Product
Let The Eat Thomas Paine
Open and Shut
Maximum Piss & Vinegar
Putting the “F” Back In “Art”