Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rocketown Moves to Its New Location; Also, the Case for Rocketown

Posted By on Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 3:54 PM

It’s been a long time comin’. Many moons ago, we got word that local Christian rock venue and skate facility Rocketown was in perilous waters. At first it looked like they might just get bulldozed. Then we found out they were moving. And finally, we figured out where they’re going. Rocketown’s been hosting shows from its temporary location on Fifth Avenue for a few months now, but come this weekend, they’re going to be back in action — at the Grooms Engine Building at 601 Fourth Ave. S., to be precise.

The Tennessean has reports of Rocketown’s plans for this weekend, which include a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring venue honcho and Christian recording superstar Michael W. Smith tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. There’s also a “Rocketown-style block party” beginning Friday at 4 p.m., and Rocketown’s annual Back to School Fest on Saturday, which will feature SGRRC vets/awesome chicks How Cozy! as well as bands with names as hilarious as Lady and the Gaga, The Whooshpad Cadet, Lights in the Firestorm and With Hell at Our Backs. More info here.

Now, if you spend much time on our humble blog, you know that the comments sections are frequently populated by some cynical, curmudgeonly folks. And, it seems, most times the topic of Rocketown enters the discourse, said curmudgeonly killjoys just might launch into tirades regarding the venue’s ownership, philosophies, events, et cetera.

Well, here’s my personal history regarding Rocketown. As a teenager, I identified myself as a Christian, primarily due to the looming threat of eternal, flame-kissed torture — getting raped by the devil and poked in the buttocks with various farming implements … that sort of thing. But we won’t get into all that. Point is, I was underage, and I liked rock ’n’ roll. Yes, a very significant portion of the “rock ’n’ roll” I liked was of an awful, self-indulgent, now-embarrassing nature. But I liked seeing bands play live, and the two places in Nashville where I could regularly do that as a 17-year-old were Rocketown and a certain relatively rundown, pungent-smelling all-ages dive that I’m just going to leave nameless. Yes, the latter club had better bands — punk, metal and emo though they mostly were — and afforded me with a more genuine rock education, but its location was (and is) genuinely somewhat dangerous for young people in a handful of ways.

Yes, Rocketown was safe. And yes, that’s the hang-up a lot people have with it: that it’s too safe. That and the concern that youngsters might be indoctrinated with Christian and/or conservative dogma when they pass through Rocketown’s doors. But here’s how it worked for me: At Rocketown, I saw an endless supply of Brandtsons, Further Seems Forevers, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Saves the Days, New Found Glorys, Eisleys, Evergreen Terraces, Beloveds and even Death Cab for Cuties. Mostly bad, bad stuff. But there was some decent punk and indie rock in there, and it was a brilliant crash-course in what it’s like to attend shows. I learned where to stand in a room for the best sound, what a good set length is vs. what’s an indulgent one, how not to be rude to opening and/or touring bands, what it takes to book a show, how one might go about reviewing a show were one lucky enough to get to do that for a living, and how to meet ridiculous young women. Hell, I’m pretty certain I first met Seth Graves at a Rocketown show … probably as he was hitting on some girl I liked.

So while I’m not inordinately pumped about, say, Rocketown fundraisers featuring right-wing windbags and that sort of thing, the venue was something of a safe haven for me as a 17- or 18-year-old — emphasis on “safe.” Even if they do take your cigarettes at the door, I’m glad they’re sticking around.

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