Galen's Stuff | Jess Dewes
Streetside Pick Up | Elie Gardner
Photo Elie Gardner
The Gift and Burden of Possession | Ari Holz
Franklin Visits eBay! | Franklin Jennings
The Book| Luby Kelley
Illustration Matt Kindt
Killed By Their Own ARt | Byron Kerman
Liberation | Julie Newberry
Bless This Mess | Claire Nowak-Boyd
Photos Michael R. Allen
Best of Mississippi Nights | Jim Utz
Andrea Avery, Diana Benanti, Thomas Crone, M. Davis, Heidi Dean, Amanda E. Doyle, Joe Esser, Chris King, François Luong, L.A. Ramsey, Stefene Russell, Steven Schreiner, and Erik Smetana.
Andrea Avery, Thomas Crone, Bill Cable, Jess Dewes, Katy Fischer, Jane Godfrey, Dave Gray.
Best of Mississippi Nights | by Jim Utz
While there were always other venues around town in the 1980s (The Manor, Turner's, Bernard's Pub, Sports Palace), Mississippi Nights' musical range was wider and booking ambitions bigger than the competition. You couldn't label it anything but a music club, the musical selections were too diverse for it to be simply a "punk club" or a "blues club", etc. By not falling into niche booking, Mississippi Nights' calendar was as full as the other clubs but contained less filler.
My concert experiences up to spring 1984 had been mostly arena or stadium affairs, so walking in to Mississippi Nights at 14 years old for the first time (before their expansion) made it feel like you were catching a band in your home. General admission seating, extremely inexpensive tickets and bands that could be caught hanging out with the crowd before and after shows...I left my first Mississippi Nights show (Accept - "Balls To The Wall" tour) knowing that arena rock shows would soon be a thing of the past for me as I began to seek out more artists I could catch in this musical utopia.
Smart club ownership, booking, and management along with a little good luck in having open space available immediately next to them, allowed Mississippi Nights to expand in winter 1987/1988 doubling its size without relocating and cementing their reputation as THE MUSIC VENUE in town. The venue's growth in size was organic and timely as it mirrored the growing audiences for many artists (mainly the exploding "college rock" scene) the club had booked and nurtured relationships with over the years (when booking agents/management maintained loyalty with venues instead of just selling to the highest bidder next time through). As artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flaming Lips, Fishbone, Soul Asylum and The Ramones' audiences grew, the club grew and was able to accommodate the bigger crowds while not going too big and having to abandon the smaller, developing artists that built the club's reputation. Favorite MN shows of the 1980s included The Ramones, John Lee Hooker, Sonic Youth, Znowhite and Joan Jett.
As the 1990s moved along the live music business started to change. Music conglomerates like SFX were moving in on the "club" scenes which made competition for the independents tougher and tougher by bringing a bizarro 'Wal-Mart effect' to the biz where ticket prices and guarantees went up (instead of down) to squeeze out the indie competition. Mississippi Nights found a way to survive in these times while the other local venues that partnered with "the man" would die off from things like overpaying on guarantees, not enough in-house booking, etc. Favorite MN shows of the 1990s included Primal Scream, Fiona Apple, Iggy Pop, Lush, Voi Vod, Slayer, Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine, Merle Haggard and Joan Jett.
As the city entered the 2000s fiercer competition to Mississippi Nights reign arrived with Pop's establishing itself as a major force in hosting national acts as well as the building of The Pageant. Other factors like further sprawl of the city's population, Laclede's Landing no longer being a destination for original live music clubs, minimal free parking and the constant rumors of the redevelopment of Laclede's Landing factored in rumors that Mississippi Nights would be closing. When urban and harder edged shows started to move to other venues in town, Mississippi Nights adapted and began cultivating the emo/pop punk and jam band scenes. While no longer the only game in town, Mississippi Nights existence remained as important and vital to the St. Louis music scene as they continued to book developing bands that would inevitably move on to the bigger venues around town their next time through. Favorite shows of 2000s would include Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Blood Brothers, Built To Spill and Joan Jett.
So finally on January 19, 2007, the 10+ years of rumors and speculation about the closing of the club scene becomes realized as Pinnacle Entertainment takes over the club's space as part of their new McCasino being built on the north end of Laclede's Landing. While the new occupants of 914 N. 1st Street will undisputedly bring more revenue for the city of St. Louis, its the bittersweet trading of one form of riches (cultural) for another (monetary). Thankfully the loss may only be temporary as Mississippi Nights' plans are to relocate by year's end....so hopefully this stays a tribute to just an address rather than a memorial for an institution.
Catch any concert in town and you're likely to spot Jim Utz, a Kick Ass recipient and long-time collector of ticket stubs, posters and music memorabilia.