As I write this, Grill, and by extension, the Red Room are shuttered for good.
The 24-hour downtown diner—which attracted a diverse cross-section of people and therefore made for great people-watching—and its side-room bar, which in recent years became a hub for great live music in a variety of genres, announced on Facebook on Sunday, Nov. 20, that they would be closing at midnight on the night of Tuesday, Nov. 22.
It didn't take that long. The place was packed on Sunday night for a show featuring two local acts and one touring one (see this week's Live on Page 52) as people danced, drank, smoked (yes, indoors—during the whole smoking-ban brouhaha a few years back, the place issued "smokers' club cards" in protest) and ate their favorite dishes from the restaurant's rule-laden menu. (I shared a plate of tater tots with friends. When someone tried to order cheese tots, a menu-manifesto no-no, she was told, "Rules are rules." Damn tot-Nazis.)
Bitching about the place had become de rigueur in recent years. The bathrooms were atrocious, and I knew people who wouldn't go there because of them. There were plenty of stories about cockroaches. The food wasn't what it once was. As someone so eloquently put it on Facebook, it was a shithole, but it was our shithole. Where else could you go at 3 a.m. to get some tater tots and coffee to sober up?
And then there's the Red Room, which held a unique spot in downtown nightlife. The bar boasted an extremely well-curated variety of spirits and beers from all over the world, and hard-working bartenders who knew exactly what to do with them. Then, of course, there was the music.
The place booked just about anything as long as it was good, or at least interesting. Established local acts, touring punk and garage acts, singer-songwriters, jazz combos, ad-hoc country bands—the Red Room played host to all of these and more. The Red Room would regularly book local acts that couldn't get gigs anywhere else in town, with lots of them playing their first shows there. (Gabriel Sullivan and Taraf de Tucson, The Cordials, and Young Hunter are but a few recent examples.) It became something of an incubator for bands and musicians, a place to see what happened when bands moved out of the practice room and onto a (lack of a) stage for the first time.
Every show performed there was open to those of all ages, and there was never, not once, a cover charge.
The news came suddenly. There had been rumors floating around for years that the place was on the brink of demise, but there was never any evidence that it would actually happen. The places were institutions, and they would outlive the storied cockroaches. The place seemed to be busy more often than not.
How could this happen? Why now? I don't have any answers. (Calls to owner Patrick Forsythe on Monday were not returned.)
Like most people who loved the place, I've been scrolling through dozens upon dozens of memories from there. The time Steve Wynn was in town to record at Wavelab and performed a spontaneous show there with Howe Gelb, John Convertino, Chris Cacavas and others. The time I waited for Bob Dylan to make a surprise appearance there following a local show, which didn't materialize, because a certain local drummer slept through the phone call to make it happen. The image of Chain and the Gang's Ian Svenonius singing from atop the house piano.
I won't even get started on all the great local stuff—we'd be here all day.
Those memories—and my last one, from Sunday night, when after the scheduled show finished, musicians began jamming, and people got up and danced, and moshed, one last time in the space that meant so much to so many—will have to sustain me. They'll have to sustain all of us.
The place never made it to Tuesday. There was such a rush on Monday that by the evening, it ran out of food, and later, drinks. Around 10:30 p.m., Grill and the Red Room closed their doors. Chris Black, who once booked acts for the Red Room, posted on Facebook: "I think Amy Rude and I just sang the last song in the Red Room, unless they open tomorrow. Amy sang an incredibly beautiful song to the accompaniment of foot taps and glass clinks. Then we sang 'Ashes of Love' together. Then we got booted the fuck out, and they closed." Perfect.
So, thank you, Grill, and thank you, Red Room, for years of memories. Words can't explain how much you've meant to us, and how much we'll all miss you.
I have a feeling this is going to really suck once denial fades away.
GOODBYE, THE BLED
Another local institution is calling it quits this week, too.
Tucson's pre-eminent post-hardcore band, The Bled, is playing its last local show at The Rock this weekend, the third-to-last date of its Farewell Tour. Over the course of its decade-long existence, the band issued four successful, acclaimed, nationally distributed albums on Fiddler, Vagrant, and Rise, the most recent being last year's Heat Fetish (Rise).
Though the band endured so many lineup changes over the years that it became difficult to keep up, quality control never became an issue, and the band toured with the likes of My Chemical Romance, Linkin Park, Taking Back Sunday, the Dillinger Escape Plan and The Used.
The Skrappy's-bred band announced in August that it was calling it quits, and this weekend will perform its last-ever local show.
The Bled's final local performance takes place on Friday, Nov. 25, at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. Opening the show will be Decoder, Broken End Stereo and Lariats. Doors open at 7 p.m., and advance tickets are available via Bookmans and ticketforce.com. For more information, head to rocktucson.com, or call 629-9211.
WISH WE COULD SAY GOODBYE TO HIV
Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., will hold its annual World AIDS Day event next Thursday, Dec. 1. Performers at the all-ages outdoor segment of the event include Sweet Pea and the Bean, Salvador Duran, Quieres Mas, Church Key, Special Brownie, Grupo Tesoro and others.
Meanwhile, inside Club Congress, the Optimist Club will get in on the action, too, with a live feed from Tanzania featuring people who are living with AIDS there, as well as music by O/W/L/S. There will also be numerous speakers, a costume contest and free HIV testing until midnight. The event begins at 4 p.m. and runs until 2 a.m. Admission to the outdoor portion is free; admission to the Optimist Club is $3, or free with an Opti Club card. For further info, head to hotelcongress.com/club, or call 622-8848.
HELP KIDS IN NEED
On Saturday, Nov. 26, Integrative Touch for Kids, a nonprofit for kids with special medical needs and their families, will host Music for the Soul, a fundraiser in the Casa Feliz Room at Hacienda del Sol, 5501 N. Hacienda del Sol Road. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. and will feature performances by Neil Russell and the House of Stone, Loveland and Batucaxé, as well as food and cocktails. Every penny of the suggested $15 donation will go to Integrative Touch for Kids. For more info, call 299-1501.
If your business is holding a music-related event on New Year's Eve, please let me know about it, so I can include it in our annual New Year's Guide. Just send an e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll make sure it's included in the guide.
ON THE BANDWAGON
There are lots more worthwhile shows around town this week that we didn't have space to discuss. Here are a few of them: Wayback Machine's Annual Dance of Thanks at Boondocks Lounge on Saturday, Nov. 26; Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers and Tramps and Thieves at the Rialto Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 26; Freezepop, ... music video? and Muddy Bug (acoustic) at Plush on Friday, Nov. 25; the Koffin Kats, The Returners and Demon City Wreckers at Club Congress on Sunday, Nov. 27; Dream Craft electronic dance party at Solar Culture Gallery on Friday, Nov. 25; Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Champagne Champagne and Xperience at Club Congress on Friday, Nov. 25; Black Pistol Fire at Sky Bar on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!