You’ve probably been in such places. The darkness is broken only by the neon beer signs over the bar. There’s a pool table in the back, and there may or may not be enough pool balls to play a game. The bathroom walls are covered with graffitti. The floor is sticky with some unknown substance that adheres to the bottoms of your shoes. There are exposed pipes on the ceiling, and they leak what appears to be some kind of noxious green liquid. Up in front, a bunch of kids are bashing away on guitars and drums, making an unholy racket. And you and the other fifty people present are having the time of your life.
I love dives. I’ve spent some of the best nights of my life in dives. And there are fewer and fewer of them as the years go by. The old, one-of-a-kind concert venues are being replaced by gentrified yuppy enclaves that have names like Lifestyle Communities Pavillion. I wasn’t aware that soullessness was a lifestyle, but what do I know?
One of my favorite dives, Little Brothers in Columbus’ Short North neighborhood, closed its doors this summer. Before it was Little Brothers it was Stache and Little Brothers, at the corner of Woodruff and High on the Ohio State University campus. Over the course of thirty years I saw well over 100 concerts there – great jazz artists like Phil Woods, old blues masters like Muddy Waters, country/folk gems like Buddy and Julie Miller, and countless rock ‘n roll shows – Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Richard Thompson, Bruce Cockburn, and many, many more. If you were big enough to draw 100 people, but not big enough to sell out the basketball arena, you played at Little Brothers.
And now it’s gone. I read today that Seattle’s Crocodile Café, another dubious dive that featured absolutely fabulous music, closed its doors last night. It’s happening everywhere. No doubt Seattle has its yuppy music enclaves as well, where scenesters dressed in designer indiewear can look good and pretend like they care about the music. But it stinks. I miss those sticky floors. And the chance to see great musicians strutting their stuff while I stood five feet from the stage.