Cherokee Street South St. Louis

An Obituary

by Jason Wallace Triefenbach, Special to Ecology of Absence

Last night was the final one for Radio Cherokee.

How was it?

Short answer:

After Bill Ward, Galen may be my favorite drummer.

Long answer:

I only stayed for five minutes.

I stay in a lot. I don’t go to shows much, even the ones that feature great inspirational bands I clung to in the abyss of youth, when life and death, joy and agony seemed to hang precariously between the second and third chord of any number of crunchy, mysanthropic punk songs. My friends later berate me for missing these and other shows, but lately I prefer a few bottles of beer or wine in the quietude of my own home to the hipster parade of rock clubs and dance halls. No matter.

The point is, my wife and I were on our way home from a small gathering of friends when I got a phone message from Galen, informing me of Radio Cherokee’s impending implosion. So we swung the car around and headed back the way we had come- back towards the tree littered darkness of Cherokee Street.

The music was good- inspired even- but I couldn’t help but concentrate more on my other senses. The smell of the room and the people around me- the sweat dripping down my leg… the whir of antique fans given a renewed lease by the proprietors of the establishment. The room was awash in memory. So I had my moment of reflection, repeated to myself a few words some might call a poem or a prayer, and departed.

I’ve missed, I’m sure, many great shows there. But I’m grateful for the many I attended, and even the mediocre or horrible ones.

You see, what is at stake here, what has for the time being fallen on the field of ongoing battle, is much more than just a hole in the wall hangout for lovers of obscure musical genres and weird pop. There is an invisible divide in American culture; one that runs much deeper than politics or religion. Whether or not you, friend reader, enjoyed the bands and performers you may have seen there, you were given, every time you stepped through the door, an opportunity much too rarified of late: moments of participation in what was once upon a time called The Underground. Radio Cherokee was a place where you would never see a Camel rep scanning your friends’ IDs. There were no beer baron logos flashing into the night, no Jagermeister Girls hawking plastic trash-trinkets through chemical tans; hell, there wasn’t even a sign above the door telling you where you were. And there were no restrictions on what could happen on that tiny stage. Just the music- some amazing, some horrible, some just numbingly mediocre- created not in pursuit of Making It Big or the hope of Cashing In, but for the sake of the creation alone- for the love of the creative exchange. Here was a place where Art was more than just a tool of Commerce.

There will be other places for this to happen- the landscape of Pop is subject to many temporary ruptures. Caves and ravines open for a while, attract a few dwellers and spelunkers, then return to rubble. Perhaps this is a good thing. Innovation and change rather than stasis.

May there be one thousand times one thousand permutations to come in the new night.

Until then, Thank You Dave, Galen, Bevin, Matt Gehlert, and all the rest…

-jason wallace triefenbach