In theory, music venues are interchangeable. If one especially great place shuts down, another spot surely will rise elsewhere.
But there's something disquieting about the closure of an especially memorable venue. Even years later, I'm still bummed about how Shattered - a Columbia, Missouri, institution - was, well, shuttered. A pool hall just isn't a suitable substitute for an up-and-coming band or an outstanding 80s night.
So it would not be surprising if St. Louis residents still have a soft spot for Mississippi Nights, a quasi-legendary venue near Laclede's Landing. On January 19, 2007, the St. Louis institution marked an end of an era with one last jam session.
Mississippi Nights' demise came about after Pinnacle Entertainment - a casino purveyor - bought the venue's property. Eventually, Pinnacle severed the lease and sped up the institution's downfall.
The final show featured an array of performers, including members of St. Louis super-legends The Urge. The group's appearance at the final show caused the audience - according to a RFT review - to go "bonkers."
This semi-reunion by far drew the most enthusiastic reaction of the night from the sold-out crowd (the venue reached capacity -- more or less -- just before 9:30 p.m.), which danced, drank, reminisced and generally celebrated the 27 years of the venue over the course of a five-hour-plus jam session.
Had the closure of the venue not loomed over the night, in fact, the concert might have seemed like just another bustling Friday night. Beatle Bob showed up to emcee, wearing a natty suit. Pitchers of beer flowed liberally. Happily drunk strangers talked to me in the restroom.
True, there are plenty of deceased venues out there where sauced strangers converse with you in lavatories. But as Zaleski noted in January 2007, Mississippi Nights possessed more oomph than the typical rock house.
Zaleski wrote that Mississippi Nights provided an audience for seminal acts such as X, Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Suicidal Tendencies. And of course,the venue was a comfortable landing spot for the aforementioned The Urge:
Mississippi Nights' legacy is inarguably how it put St. Louis on the national concert map. Seminal artists such as the Police, Hüsker Dü, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joe Cocker, 311 and Lucinda Williams graced its stage, while Nirvana played its only St. Louis date there in 1991.
"I remember seeing Nirvana and thinking, 'Wow, this is going to change everything,'" says Richard Fortus, a current member of Guns N' Roses who played guitar in the popular local group Pale Divine. "It was one of the best shows I've ever seen."
Some artists saw the club as more than just a stopping point on a long tour. They Might Be Giants included a track dedicated to Mississippi Nights on their Venues album. And George Thorogood and the Destroyers recorded part of its 1995 live album at the venue.
Perhaps Jay Farrar of Sun Volt and Uncle Tupelo put it best when he said during a RFT retrospective that Mississippi Nights "was a venerable institution that consistently served up live music in St. Louis that no other venue could match."
"Maybe the stage was too high or the ceiling too low or the bouncers too surly," Farrar told Zaleski and Roy Kasten. "Sure, the sound system couldn't overpower the people drinking and talking near the bar -- but Mississippi Nights, with its abundance of old brick and wood, had character."
Click here to read Kasten and Zaleski's aforementioned retrospective. And as a bonus, here's the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl in 2008 talking about Nirvana's memorable stop at Mississippi Nights: