Al Swacker (DJ, UnMutuals, Devil Baby Freak Show, SVK)
SPB: What is your favorite venue, past or present, to play or attend a show at?
Swacker: My favorite venue? Wow, not an easy question. I can think of 6 that come to mind right away and each is for different reasons.
I could say the Pageant in St Louis or the Congress in Chicago because of the amazing treatment. We had our own dressing rooms with free food and beer at both. At the Pageant, they unloaded our gear and tuned our guitars and set up our amps and drums for us. Both of those venues, however, may have only been a great experience because of the headliners we were touring with (i.e. the Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion, just to name a couple). My heart, on the other hand belongs to 4 others.
Deluxe in St Louis was very short lived. They had amazing sound, great food, paid well, and the drinks were always discounted. Perhaps if it had more time it would have become my favorite, or maybe I would have become disappointed.
The Crack Fox in St Louis also ranks very high in my heart. I began booking, playing, and deejaying there (among other jobs) about a month after it opened. It was my own party almost every night of the week and I was never charged for a drink. The owner, Carrie Harris, is an amazing woman who knows how to make her dreams reality. All of the staff at the Crack Fox are like family to me. The sound is a little echoey and there's no room for a back line but the absence of televisions and jukebox add to the fetish-kink ambience. The place radiates sex and you never know what you’re in for, whether it be impromptu nerf gun wars or severed head volleyball. My favorite thing about the Crack Fox, however, is that I met the love of my life there.
Another venue where I've always felt at home is the Way Out Club also in St Louis. The proprietors, Bob and Sherri, treat the bands very well. It is small and caters to the B-movie fan in all of us. In its early days, at its previous location, it was home to poets and artists and anyone who dared to be original and only had local bands. When it moved to a bigger space, it opened its doors to lesser known, touring bands as well. Alas, the sound system has never been what it could be and the neighborhood where it resides is very risky.
This brings me to your actual question. After serious thought, weighing the pros and cons and reliving old memories, I would have to say my favorite venue was a small beer-soaked punk rock dive in Seattle called the Lake Union Pub. It was the first place I went to see a show when I moved to Seattle back in 1992. That first night in town I saw 4 bands, and ended up the bass player in one of them before the night was over. Shows were rarely more than a $1 cover and I rarely paid for a beer which is all they served. It was 2 rooms, separated by the bar and neither of them were much larger than the restrooms. There was no house PA and nothing was ever miked but the vocals. There was no stage and the bands took up most of room. I had the pleasure of playing with and seeing some of the greatest bands of all time in that room. Some got big and some fizzled out. It was the peak of the grunge era but you'd never have a clue it even existed at the pub. From rockabilly to grindcore to metal to punk and surf, no 2 bands ever sounded alike and the night was always a party. I got to open for the Gits there. I got to witness the beginnings of Zeke and the Boss Martians there. I got to play with Bristle and Chicken and so many other great bands. Not to mention the occasional barroom brawl with skinheads or random blow jobs from cute punk rock girls in the bathroom. The pub died out in the late ‘90s but has been immortalized in songs by several of the bands that played there, including one that I co-wrote with Lonnie from Bristle. The Lake Union Pub was a true Neverland for punk rock.
It is such a close call for all of these venues and the decision was truly difficult. Thank you for asking and letting me relive all those amazing memories.