I saw a lot of bands at that tiny-ass dive and I say that with all the affection I can muster. For Rockafellas' was a dive in the best sense of the word. A tiny ass bar with a stage and audience area so small, you could not help but be right on top of whoever was playing. Even if you were at the back, you were close enough to get sprayed with spittle and beer from whatever front man was attacking the mic. Want to know how tight it was? Check this pic.
Yes...that's the stage in the background. It was that close to the bar.
Apparently, there was a reunion show a year or so ago. Sad I missed it. Here is a myspace page devoted to the place and its got some great info and pics. And I will blatantly crib this description from the page of the talent that walked through the door:
The Connells, Don Dixon, Jason and the Scorchers, the BoDeans, Bonnie Raitt, the
Byrds, Delbert McClinton, Danzig, Dave Matthews, Dead Milkmen, Fleshtones, Glenn Phillips Band (pre-Toad the Wet Sprocket), Goo Goo Dolls, Henry Rollins, Hootie
and the Blowfish, Johnny Quest, Michelle Malone, Roger Manning, Mojo Nixon &
Skid Roper, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Royal Crescent Mob, Rob Crosby, Smithereens,
Stan Ridgeway, Swimming Pool Q's, Southern Culture on the Skids, Soul Asylum,
They Might Be Giants, Widespread Panic, Yellowman, Yo La Tengo, and others, all
called 2112 Devine Street home at least for one night.
How many people have a story like this:
My other favorite “I saw them when” story about Rockafellas concerns a band from
the Athens/Atlanta area called Mr. Crowe’s Garden. They played the club on a
Sunday night in the fall of 1989, a slow time at any bar, and only about ten
people were there, including the bar staff. When they got up to play, the singer
said they were just going to have some fun, and the band proceeded to play a 90
minute set of every classic 70’s rock song you can name, from “Rock and Roll
Hootchie Koo,” to, “Strutter,” and, “Deuce.” It was an amazing display and a
great show, for almost nobody. I talked to the singer after the show, and he
said they were releasing an album the next spring on Def American, a new label
from Def Jam founder Rick Rubin. I didn’t think much more about it until January
of 1990, I was fresh out of USC and working a record store job in Charleston
when an elderly couple came in and bought two copies of a new album we’d just
gotten in from a band called the Black Crowes. After looking closer at the album
I realized this was the same band I’d seen at Rockafellas back in the fall. I
had even been playing it in the store for several weeks without making the
connection, but it clicked then. The couple who came in were an aunt and uncle
of Chris and Rich Robinson, the two brothers in the band’s original lineup.
Personally, Rockafellas' was the first bar I ever drank illegally in. And got thrown out of. It was the place where I partied with my old bosses for the first time (Southern Culture on the Skids Show), helping form a friendship that led to a nice career for the first part of my life. A job where I also met the lovely Von. I also was there one night with the late Donger and some other buddies, when Sourwood Honey played. At the end of their album Big Neon Hound Dog, there is a bonus hidden track that was recorded live at that show. At the beginning of the track, you can hear some idiot yelling drunkenly, "Yeeeeaah! Yeaaaaah!" I'm pretty sure that was me and a co-worker at the time (Trent) eff'd up beyond all comprehension acting like idiots. So I have very fond memories of the place.
It really is amazing the amount of talent that poured through a tiny little southern town. At its height, Rockafellas' was the place for bands to play. And their national reputation made the whole music scene in Columbia pretty damn bad-ass. How many good bands came through The Elbow Room around the same time? I know I watched Jawbox absolutely tear it up. Do they come through Columbia if not for Rockafellas'? I doubt it.