I have many memories of what my peers and I consider our "glory days" in the Buffalo music scene. Granted, I was 15 or 16 then and I was in a terrible band and I had an awful hair cut, but it seemed like every weekend I was out at a show somewhere. As cynical as I can be, I truly do value the time I spent working on those songs that went nowhere and all the infighting between band members that inevitably drove some of us apart. I like to think that kind of stuff defined my childhood. I can look back on those times and laugh now, but when I really stop to think about what was happening back then, something that always inspires a bit of surprising nostalgia are the venues that I spent so much time in. All those random Buffalo dive bars, skate parks, and theaters are deeply ingrained in my memories.
Way back when, my favorite venue was the Buffalo Icon. I loved that place. I remember the crappy couches, the glass block decor, the garage door in the back, and the off-limits upper room that I always wanted to explore but never did. Some of my proudest moments were spent on that stage - I remember writhing on the floor and headbanging so hard I gave myself whiplash (we weren't a metal band, so there's no excuse for my antics). I remember falling dramatically to my knees as the last notes of our set rang out. And I got to open for Piebald (and a few other bands that I'm too ashamed to name)... So in 2007 when the Icon announced it was closing its doors for good, I was crushed. This mid-size venue made me feel like a hero when I was on stage - where else was a 17 year old to go? The Town Ballroom was reserved only for real bands.
I never did get to play the Town Ballroom, but I do remember a couple drunk guys urinating on the floor during a crowded Interpol concert. And I laugh about the horror on my mother's face when a couple of young "hussies" asked my band mates and I to sign their impossibly short skirts after our set at the "Sweet Dude Fest" at Club Infinity. Those are the kinds of things I'll never forget, and they always come up when we talk about that particular venue.
Not every memory is particularly positive. I remember learning a valuable lesson about the importance of tuning pedals and how the X-treme cold at Xtreme Wheels can detune your guitar in the middle of your set. Conversely, five years later, I learned about the dangers of having too many pedals when one of them shorted out and cut power to my entire rig in the sweltering summer heat at Sugar City. Those experiences were sobering to say the least. The Wadsworth incarnation of Sugar City may be gone, but every time I think of it, I think of that fateful moment when my guitar was the only thing that was supposed to be playing... and it wasn't. Cringe worthy.
As for now, my peers and I mostly play and see shows at Mohawk Place. I am okay with this transition. I don't need much more than Mohawk - they have a stage, a sound guy, a decent sound system, and a bar. I consider myself lucky if I get to play a show at the Ninth Ward, if only for a change of scenery. But more than just the location has changed. I appreciate when a venue has good acoustics. I'm not running around aimlessly trying to shake every band member's hand while spewing an uncontrollable stream of praise regardless of what I actually thought of their music. I now wear ear plugs as to not further damage my hearing.
I guess what I am trying to say is I have mellowed with age, but I'm still making memories. They're just a little bit different. I think that every now and then, we should take a moment to remember our fallen venue-comrades. The Buffalo Icon may have become "Illusions," and Sugar City's landlord may have given them the boot, but when it comes down to it, those places have definitely been a bigger influence on my life than just a location for shows.