Rest in Pieces

The shattered dreams and blurred memories of Washington Square

"There was always sex going on in the bathrooms, but the most amazing thing that ever happened sexually was this couple celebrating their anniversary a few months ago. They were making out everywhere, going at it in my sound booth, which is a big no-no. I told them to get a room. Instead they went out back [into a small fenced-in courtyard] and started going all-out. I said, 'Ahem, excuse me!' Nothing. Like I'm not even there. Buck naked, 69ing, spread eagle. I'm trying to lock up for the night. So I got Sturge. The two of us try. 'Ahem, ahem. Excuse me!' Nothing. So we went back in, got eight or ten people, and made cards like they use to judge Olympic ice skating. We all go outside, laughing, giving points for degree of difficulty. They just ignored us. Finally a group of their yuppie friends who'd been waiting outside showed up. 'Where are they?' 'They're out fucking in the back.' 'We'll go get them.' They come back a minute later. 'They're almost done.' Finally, they leave. Suffice it to say they gave Sturge and Jeff really good tips.

"A couple years ago we had a band in here, there were maybe six people waiting to see them. While they were setting up, the drummer started fucking with the stage lights. I warned him several times to wait and I'd take care of them, but he wouldn't wait. He kept fucking with the lights. Finally I screamed, 'If you can't control yourself, get the fuck out!,' and he shouts back, 'Do you know who we are? We're Urge Overkill!' They ended up playing at Churchill's. But I saw them on MTV the other night. They're huge stars, famous now. That's probably the worst band experience I've ever had.

"But we've had some great concerts in here. Ugly Kid Joe. fIREHOSE. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Yellowman three times. Pato Banton. L7. School of Fish. Bad Brains. Mighty Mighty Bosstones. And, of course, we turned down Lenny Kravitz because he showed up without equipment. I wasn't working that night.

"Prince came in to see the play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. Eight security guards. He came in the front, left through the back. I think he thought the play was over but it was only intermission. He sat ramrod straight the whole time, didn't look around. I walked over to get him to autograph a CD for me, and this wall of flesh materialized. 'Prince isn't signing anything today,' they said."

Rat Bastard (musician): "So many strange things happened to me there, it's hard to pick one. Once Emris, the magician/musician, played an entire song on the guitar using a dead pigeon for a pick. I've got it on tape somewhere. He took a lead and everything. During a Scraping Teeth set shortly after the Square opened I got possessed on-stage. I started playing the guitar like no one's ever heard, not even me. There were lots of people there. It was the greatest guitar performance ever. I don't even know what I was playing. It only happened one time. I'm still waiting for it to happen again. It was the weirdest thing."

Shane Soloski (musician): "It's ironic. I was thinking about it the other day when I heard they were closing and I remember thinking, when it opened, 'Man, these bathrooms are really nice.' White. Stencil trim. Very ornate. Who'd have guessed what they'd go through.

"But the most memorable thing that ever happened to me there was the night a girl offered me money for sex. She said she wanted to buy me for her friend. $200. I declined due to performance anxiety."

Performance anxiety. You have to wonder how often it afflicted the hundreds and hundreds of musicians who played their guts out on that stage over the years. From the Mavericks, Nuclear Valdez, and Charlie Pickett, to Voidville, Forget the Name, and Natural Causes, the top of the local crop has strutted its stuff under the hot lights off Washington Avenue. And so has the chaff, from the merely bad, such as yours truly, to the official Worst Band in America, Scraping Teeth. If the Square was the kind of club where you could feel comfortable no matter what you were wearing, it was also the kind of club where you could hone your chops and work your way up from an occasional midweek gig to a Saturday headline show. And now it's history.

Or is it? Many musicians remain cautiously optimistic. Broken Spectacles's Ed Hale: "The scene's not dying. It's just moving. Think positively."

Adds perpetual optimist Zac, "Something better's coming. It's neat the way this is bringing everyone together. The fact that it's even a problem is a good sign."

But while their spirit may be admirable, it seems safe to assume the Square-to-Spo- dee-o-dee conversion will drastically change the face of local music, at least temporarily. Soon-to-be-unemployed doorman Nikides's attitude is more representative: "I'm massively bummed out at this point. Even if they do get something else going in another location, it won't be the same. I don't know what I'm going to do. It was my livelihood and my lifestyle. The Square was unique."

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