Last month, the Triple Rock Social Club announced that it would be closing this week. After opening in 1998, the Minneapolis punk establishment roared for 19 years, and left a eulogy-worth legacy. On Wednesday night, they said goodbye with a night summing up its chaotic history.
The Triple Rock's final show was a perfect balance of joy and sorrow. A West Bank Irish wake, complete with Marshall amps, a bagpipe brigade, and an ocean's worth of Jameson-flavored tears. We mourned, but turned it into a celebration of earthly pleasures, because our friends that were no longer with us would want us to.
The whole family showed up
Folks began showing up the moment that the venue's doors opened at 6, and continued to pile in until the Triple Rock swelled far past its modest 380-person capacity. By the time Dillinger Four took the stage, steam was practically rising from the sardine-tight masses of punks. One individual even unwisely climbed on top of the vending machine to get a better view.
Rumor has it that the venue's owners, Gretchen and Erik Funk, intentionally oversold the room for this last dance. After all, what was the city going to do, shut them down?
Despite complaints of Russian hackers and ticket-buying bots from jilted fans dismayed by the show's lightning-fast sellout, the assembled masses appeared legitimate and loyal.
A little something for everyone
Some genuine thought seemed to have been placed in assembling the ultimate show's lineup. The list of bands formed a near-perfect dichotomy of the varying strains of punk that have called the Triple Rock home over the past 19 years.
Dillinger Four buddies the Slow Death kicked things off, as they have done so often at many a D4 show, with their rousing fusion of Midwest pop-punk and Americana. Next up was Victory, some of the last remaining stalwarts of the Twin Cities street punk and Oi! scene, who shouted out their skinhead brethren and capped things off with Cock Sparrer cover.
Feminist DIY punks Kitten Forever were in the third slot. Sandwiched in the middle of four other testosterone-fueled dude bands, the all-femme trio felt remarkably fresh. Dedicating their final two songs to the femmes and queer folx in the crowd, Kitten Forever member Corrie Harrigan delivered the most nuanced statement about the bar's significance of the night.
"The Triple Rock means something different for us than I think it does for a lot of the people here tonight. We didn't really come here to get sh*t-housed and watch hardcore shows, but the Triple Rock gave us some of our first opportunities on stage, and we got to play with some of our favorite bands here. So if there's any femmes or queer people in here that don't get to feel represented at hardcore shows, come down front for these next two songs."
The charge of the pipe brigade
While Negative Approach was setting up, a high-pitched, melodic whine began to sound throughout the Triple Rock. A 15-strong band of pipers from the Brian Boru Irish Pipe Band had arrived.
Resplendent in full uniform, the pipers somehow marched into the Triple Rock's old bar, through the doors, and right up to the stage, before heading straight to the rail for shots of Jameson.
Legends in the building
Iconic Detroit band Negative Approach played second-to-last, delivering a blistering, whip-tight set of caustic, old-school hardcore.
Formed in 1981, Negative Approach were some of the earliest innovators of hardcore, helping to usher in the nascent genre's brutal, propulsive sound and nihilistic lyrics.
While they've shed a few members since those early days, Negative Approach is still a mean and powerful band in 2017. Frontman John Brannon's guttural scream is still as intimidating as ever, and the singer hardly broke his trademark scowl long enough to deliver a terse, post-set tribute to the venue: "Triple Rock. F**k yeah."
How much art can you take?
Dillinger Four are proud standard-bearers of the Twin Cities punk scene's cult of disorder, in that they are brilliant musicians and songwriters whose live performances vary wildly between "masterpiece" and "utter trainwreck." Much speculation was had in the months leading up to this final show as to which side of D4 would show up to send the bar off.
We got a good one.
Obviously sensing and responding to the elephant in the room while barely addressing it (classic Minnesotan move), the band arrived onstage to the strains of Boston's "More Than a Feeling," and played a tight, pithy set with nearly all of the fan favorites in tow.
Taking turns pulling on a Jameson bottle and "The last Budweisers to ever be in the Triple Rock," the quartet showed nary a single outward expression of regret about their headquarters' closing. After having his microphone kicked to the floor by a stage diver after just two songs, bassist/vocalist Paddy Costello joked:
"See, that's why the bar is closing. I have two chipped teeth and they're both from a microphone. Let's chip another one tonight so I can say I broke it at the Triple Rock's last show."
The eminently quotable Mr. Costello also made a point to mention that most of Dillinger Four's lyrics were originally composed on bar napkins within these four walls, and clarified that his band's seminal "Doublewhiskeycokenoice" was in fact, not about the Triple Rock.
"Listen, I don't know how many of you bothered to check the timelines on this, but that song came out before this bar opened. That said, we wrote it about the kind of people that ended up calling this place home."
Echoed effusively by guitarist Billy Morissette, who tended bar at the Triple Rock starting on opening day, was this message that the Triple Rock was about more than the brick and mortar that housed it.
To the members of Dillinger Four, and to all of us, the Triple Rock was about the people that called it home, who shed blood, sweat and tears here. The staff, the regulars, the rubberneckers in for one night a year, they all came together to form a congregation in this church of rock 'n' roll.
When a church is demolished, the congregation doesn't disband, and when a loved one passes, the Irish family draws closer together. Closing their set with a pugnacious run through "D4: Putting the F Back in Art," Paddy issued a directive to his sweaty, beer-soaked flock:
"Now, go out and start your own Triple Rock."