The Friday List is a reoccurring feature in which we jog memories, spark thoughts and perhaps generate debate in one of the grandest formats devised by man … the almighty list. Are we missing something? Are we dead wrong? Offer your thoughts on the list du jour by heading to the Valley Review’s Twitter or Facebook pages.
In today’s list — and in no particular order — we explore the Top 8 Music Venues We Wish We Had Back.
Brown County Arena: The body isn’t yet cold, but it isn’t too soon to miss a venue that for decades served was our region’s top destination for national touring acts. Poison’s Bret Michaels headlined the final show in fitting fashion as the glam rockers had a strange love for a building that showed its age even at their peak. The arena hosted Elvis. It hosted Bob Dylan. From KISS to Metallica, it had all the big arena rock shows. It was a legend.
Tom’s Garage: It was a brilliant idea that came just a few years before the Fox Valley was ready for it. Tom’s Garage, which opened in 2003, was located at the corner of Superior and Franklin streets in Appleton — in the building now occupied by The Core. It was a business built around live music and featured both local and national acts with bands playing several nights a week. One can’t help but think a community that’s since supported, learned and grown from Mile of Music would have Tom’s Garage thriving if it was still around today.
The Blue Jay Bowl: Where would a 1990s teen carrying a taste for aggression and a fascination with evil find underground bands that came from as far away as Sweden? If your guess was a Menasha bowling alley, you are correct. The Blue Jay Bowl’s banquet room hosted baseball card shows by day, but on frequent weekend nights was a leading venue on the death metal circuit. It was loud, reeked of sweat and the meek were wise to stand close to the walls lest they be swept into the raucous mosh pit. Local guitar virtuoso Jeff Loomis was a regular on the Blue Jay Bowl stage before finding metal fame with bands including Sanctuary, Nevermore and Arch Enemy.
The Concert Cafe: The all-ages Green Bay club was everything that a 1990s punk could have ever asked for — and very likely took for granted. It was dingy. The beverage selection was lacking and it was hotter than hell in there once the crowd packed in. The bathrooms weren’t for the faint of heart, but the tickets were cheap and the bands were incredible. Those responsible for booking shined in ways that for many would only be recognized years down the line. The venue brought in some of the biggest acts during the flash of brilliance known as third-wave ska. Descendants, Good Charlotte, Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Buzzcocks were among those to take the stage.
Ryan’s Ballroom: There are folks in the Fox Valley who couldn’t tell you how to get to Combined Locks. Imagine what Megadeth thought when they saw Combined Locks, Wis. on their tour itinerary. It was a small venue in an even smaller town and when looking at the acts that came through, it’s mind-blowing to think a place like this ever existed: Ryan’s Ballroom played host to acts including Sevendust, Drowning Pool, Caroline’s Spine, Garbage, Rob Zombie, Seether and Reel Big Fish. Yeah, the Fox Cities could use a place like that again.
Automatic Slim’s: Automatic Slim’s in Neenah filled a niche in the Fox Cities and one that’s been substantially empty since the bar closed its doors. Slim’s regularly staged rockabilly and blues and brought its share of national performers as a convenient off-night locale between the Chicago and Milwaukee areas and Minneapolis. Notable shows included an evening with Sun recording artist Sonny Burgess.
The Cinderella: The Cinderella Ballroom was gathering place for dancing and live music in the days before rock ‘n roll took over. They brought in the big names in polka. They brought in the biggest big bands. They brought in names such as Cab Calloway, Guy Lombardo and Duke Ellington. It was known for one of the best wooden dance floors in the state. The ballroom on Oneida Street was demolished in the 1980s, though lives on in an interesting piece of trivia: it stands as the only cancelled engagement of the Winter Dance Party tour just days before the infamous plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.
The Maritime: The Maritime is still with us, but it’s no longer the Maritime known for music as it was while under the ownership of the late Jon Weiss. The Maritime hosted live music on a regular basis, provided a much-needed venue for the heavy metal scene and proved the only thing needed to transform a neighborhood tavern to a music club was to shove aside a few tables.