This is the website for author, reporter and general writing enthusiast, Michael Farrell. In this space, Farrell features educated ramblings on topics such as sports, music, barroom adventure, and his return to the mean streets of western New York. He may also mention things about his novels "Running with Buffalo" or the recently released "When the Lights Go Out."
Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy your scroll.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Last Moments of the Mohawk
When I think aboutMohawk Place,
my first thought is of holiday reunions spent amid their annual Joe Strummer Tribute Night, scheduled for the 11thand final time this Saturday night.
second thought? The hilariously abhorrent condition of their men’s bathroom.
don’t immediately think about how The White Stripes, My Morning Jacket or Dr. Dog once
mounted the Mohawk stage to echo vocals and chords off steel coolers and street
signs. I don’t think about the Elvis inBuffaloposter, the hawk-emblazoned
mirror or walls covered with local guitar heroes. And, I don’t think about how
they may have been the last bar inBuffaloto offer (and actually
move) bottles of Old Vienna. I think about their bathroom, with walls and
urinals covered in band stickers, floor swimming in spilled or recycled Genny Cream Ale—and a
toilet seat covered in duct tape.
the state of those facilities has always been oddly complementary to the gritty,
leather-clad aura of the Mohawk. It’s always stood as an unkempt rock hole, one
focused less on presentation of pristine interiors and more on presentation of
Fenders and feedback. If you were there to use the can, you were definitely in
the wrong place. If you were there to seeBuffalo’s
finest musicians, some touring up-and-comers, or a group of your childhood
friends cover The Clash’s “Clampdown” as a tribute to Strummer, then you were
in the right place.
Sticker-covered wall of Buffalo's Mohawk Place
you grew up in or aroundBuffaloin the nineties, you found
your music at Record Theatre or Home of the Hits. You may have followed up that shopping with shows inside Showplace Theater or Nietzsche's before, eventually, a friend’s band—or some band you
absolutely needed to see—booked Mohawk. And, once you weaved through its dingy
interiors, continued past the odd pile of crumbled, roped-off debris near the
bathrooms and found a place atop the raised landing in the front right corner,
you fell in love with the joint. Like every greatBuffalodive, it attached itself
to you. It felt like yours.
you’ve stayed local since 1990, you’ve been able to treat it like yours for
decades. If you moved away, maybe you visited while home and carried it with
you when you left.
I leftBuffalo forBoston in 2000, I spent time inCambridge venues like T.T The Bear’s
Place and theMiddle
East, watching acts like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
or The Moondoggies. From 2008 to 2011, I tended bar at the Paradise Rock Club, a
Boston venue famous for hosting upstarts in the seventies like Tom Petty and
AC/DC, and some Irish band in 1980 named U2. Five nights-a-week, I watched
bands like the Bouncing Souls, Deer Tick or Dinosaur Jr. tear up the Paradise,
churning out ear-bleeding riffs while patrons would move together, belt out
lyrics or fist-pump drum beats. At least once per night, I’d smile, take it all
in and realize I was employed to sling cans of Pabst and watch electric
sets. And, at least once every few nights, I’d look over the same scene, see
joy or recognition cascade over shadowed faces and think to myself, “This
reminds me of the Mohawk.”
Environments within the Paradise and Mohawk Place are special; these types of venues don’t just open up. They
develop like a relationship, with years of memories forming a connection
between two entities. Place and patron unite to elicit a sense of genuine
contentment, albeit over cans of beer and jangling cacophony. With more shows
grows a deeper connection, and with a deeper connection grows a loyalty that’s
essential to longevity and reputation. Most major cities have a few places like this, but every city needs at least one. Mohawk’s been one ofBuffalo’s
best, and now it’s down to its last days.
A farewell message for legions of loyal patrons
it finally closes its doors in January, it’ll leave behind thousands of moments
for thousands of people. It’ll disconnect from the relationship it formed with
patrons over cover bands, punk quartets and Canadian frontmen. Many will
remember those early, blues-soaked Friday nights withSouth
Willie Schoellkopf. Others will recall a bourbon-fueled evening with the Felice Brothers or a sweat-drenched show with Snapcase. If you were there for the
Hollerado show two weeks ago, maybe you’ll cherish the memory ofKids in the Hall’s Dave Foley,
nonchalantly roaming around the joint amid the flashes of iPhone cameras. If these
moments are yours, take them with you as anotherBuffalobackdrop fades into
for me, I’ll stash the vision of the venue’s glorified outhouse. Instead, I’ll
lean on other Strummer Tribute Night-related memories, like the scene that
flanked me a couple of years ago. As I stood talking to a friend at the bar, a
drunken couple next to us began bar-necking so hard they lost their balance and
crashed to the floor under the wail of The Clash’s “Safe European Home.”
Tattered romance to a few; reckless action to some. Genuine Mohawk to others.
for the memories.
(Author’s note: This entry
was finished while listening to “I’m Not Down” by The Clash.)