Tuesday, June 30, 2020

An empty Bottle

"An empty drawer is unimaginable. It can only be thought of." So says Gaston Bachelard. But what of an empty rock and roll club? Courtesy of these wonderful, melancholy photos, I don't have to try to imagine it. I can see it.

I certainly never wanted to think of the Empty Bottle as, well, empty for the foreseeable future, but here we are. (You can contribute to the venue's Reopening Fund, Staff Fund, or Music Friendly Distancing artists here.) These photos capture something beyond the atmospheric hour-after-last-call or the busy few minutes before a joint opens up: they evoke stillness and quiet, a noun and adjective one rarely associates with a raucous rock and roll club. Gorgeously photographed with a blend of light sources, the long bar, the dance floor, and the adjacent room (whither goest thou, merch tables?) look beautiful and artfully appointed, because they are; over the decades, the staff at the Bottle have created a warm and lived-in feel at the place but the aesthetics, not to mention the often striking artwork on the walls, are often lost to dim lighting, and in another lifetime, to swirling cigarette smoke. These noiseless photos create an alternate mood, homey, rich even. All that's missing are the patrons, the bands, and the virtually-visible music reaching into every corner. The images are pleasing yet heartbreaking, most of all to the struggling owners and the unplugged bands who were primed to visit the little Ukrainian Village corner joint from a few neighborhoods over, or the other side of the country, or another continent. I want so badly to pull up a stool here, order a beer and a shot, people watch, stroll the place, and ignore, or fall in love with, the second of three opening acts who I'd never heard of before. In the meantime, I'll wait. The music will come back one day. In a silly way, I'm grateful for these evocative photos even as they do what all photographs do: welcome me in while keeping me out. See you soon, down at the rock and roll club.

Photos courtesy of Empty Bottle

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