I immediately think of the time I knocked a guy out.
It’s the end of the line for the House of Rock. A venue that represented some of the best and worst aspects of the Eau Claire music scene. The arc of the venue trailed through my years in Eau Claire. From the time I was screaming for my first band to the time I rang in the New Year with 200 strangers to the time I decided a Sage Francis show is one of the most whack experiences of my life. It all happened at the House of Rock.
The building itself housed a lot of stuff, even before it was the HoR. Legend has it that Jimmy Eat World played there in 1994. My friends and I saw a lot of things there and had a lot of experiences in that place. I went from a new Eau Clairian to an old man that is completely irrelevant to everyone around me and in the local music scene. HoR was around for all of it.
It was like a high school friend. You make a lot of memories and share a lot of experiences while you’re young. Your brain isn’t completely formed and the things you go through can still be profound in how they influence your very formation as a human. You take those memories with you, those experiences, and you remember them – often in a fond light – as some glorious monolith, blazing to show the outline of the person you become. Years pass and odds are that you don’t remember most of the people you went to high school with, probably don’t even have things in common with a lot of your “best friends” from that time period. Of course, once in a while, you check in. You can lurk on Facebook, hear about how they’re doing via mutual friends, and maybe you even drop in and spend a night together. Partly, you catch up on where you’re both at, but mostly it’s about the fond memories that imprinted on your weak, soft teenage brain.
It’s the same for with House of Rock. Good and bad went down. They booked a lot of shows, then they started running us for 90 percent of the door. It was fine. We were young, they needed to turn a profit on shows that were primarily attended by underage kids. The memories were made, but it was eventually time to return back to the basements and living rooms that all our local shows had inhabited before the brief metal-hardcore heyday of the mid-2000s.
I’ve decided to reach back into my soft brain to find five events that will hopefully stick with me for the rest of my life and happened to take place at my old friend, the House of Rock.
5. Mel Gibson and the Pants
I feel like this group should have absolutely destroyed. They were easily better than most of the other regional acts of the mid-2000s and they outshined a lot of the ultra-hip backpack rap of Anticon and Rhymesayers. They belonged in the conversation with artists like Doseone, Themselves and Sage Francis. Those names were all a big deal at the time. MGATP were our local link to that and they were legitimately great. We were fortunate to see them so often and their performances at House of Rock stick in my brain.
4. Cannibal Corpse
Hell yes. I never saw them before or after, but in 2012, Cannibal Corpse destroyed 20 straight gore-drenched death metal classics. And they did it at the little old House of Rock. The show was amazing. I can’t imagine a better venue for a death metal act. They were unrelentingly heavy, but the true heaviness came from the size of the venue. It trapped all the energy and sound and turned into a really great time. And the supporting bands on that tour were Misery Index and Hour of Penance. Those three bands squished into a small venue in Eau Claire and tore the place apart. It was a fantastic experience. Except for the fat virgin with dreadlocks working “security.” That dude is an idiot forever.
3. Knocking Out a Jerk
I had the privilege of playing several shows at House of Rock. Not many, but enough. I also got to see my friends play there way more than I did. When you hang with a circle of people who all play music, that will happen. On one particular occasion a guy showed up, and I do remember his name still, and he wasn’t quite accustomed to our idiotic “hardcore dancing” practices. He also decided he was going to establish himself by fighting people. This confused young man swung on a friend multiple times. I removed him from the situation. I know that the band my friends were in was still playing, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about them because I was dealing with this guy. He liked the challenge and took two swings on me. I was, unfortunately for him, not swayed by his efforts. Seeing that he was just getting more worked up, I opted for a solution. My heavy hand is my right, so I figured a left was a better option so as to maybe snap him out of it and not cause serious damage. To my surprise he went out briefly. He was better behaved after that incident.
2. Cattle Decapitation
This band is very heavy. They also have a fun thing where they rep the vegan lifestyle hard. It’s pretty great and I’m glad that they’re doing it. Also, the were touted – back in the day – as being an ex-The Locust band. In 2004 (when this show happened), being ex-The Locust was a big deal. I went to that show and it was fantastic. They played an amazing set and the best part was that there were about 15 people there. I basically got to stand right in front of the band and watch them play for no one. At the time, I lived probably six blocks away. I walked six blocks in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and I got to see Cattle Decapitation basically playing a set just for me.
1. Silvering, Life No Longer, The Dead Romance – THE SHOW
I saw Silvering play like the most times ever. I was friends with all the guys in the band and first saw them back in 1998-ish. Most of the guys are still good dudes that I like to see and talk to. I saw them play a lot of places and saw their record release show (also at House of Rock). But this show was, if I’m not mistaken, their last one. They were the alt-emo kings of Eau Claire. That’s just what it was.
Life No Longer was also playing their final show. Not too long after, they would essentially regroup as Solidarity and the rest, for those boys, is history. It was a blast. Lots of moshy parts and simple, catchy vocal patterns. The most fun you could have while being utterly inconsiderate of everyone and everything around you.
The Dead Romance was my band. For a time. I started it with a few other guys and eventually personality differences and one particularly shady dude put the end to that. Before all that, we were the metal element of the equation.
All of our bands were friends in some form or another for years and years. Like I said, most of those relationships have stood the test of time. We all lived together at various points, or worked together, or played in bands, roadied for each other, and all other kinds of things that a pack of boys aged 17-22 would get into if you left them unsupervised.
I remember having the sound guy playing Three Six Mafia before our set, which didn’t go over well. I enjoyed it.
I remember jumping off the speaker stack during Life No Longer’s set.
I remember the stage being 30-40 people deep during Silvering’s last song.
It was an era-defining moment.
I don’t want to make myself sound like a big deal. I knew a lot of people; a lot of people knew me. I didn’t contribute a ton myself. I’m not a musician and no band I was even in did anything cool. But cumulatively, we were all part of something. We were all young kids who were too hot, too fast, too hard to slow down and listen to anyone else or heed those who came before us. It was amazing.
The “scene” was so strong and the end of that era was the catalyst for something bigger and better when the kids younger than us did what we needed them to do in order for the hardcore scene in Eau Claire to survive – they bought in. They started bands, they came to shows, they bought demos, they bought shirts, they posted on our stupid messageboards.
It was a special moment though, that night at the House of Rock. It was the last time that bands who all defined their little pockets of subgenres within the city played together. And everyone had a blast. That’s not just a memory to cherish among all the moments that happened at House of Rock, that’s a moment to be cherished among all the things I remember and experiences I take with me through this life.
by Daniel Coughlin