I only knew part of the story. In the few years between college and law school - when I was "finding myself" and working full time in fine dining restaurants as a server - we'd get off our shift at about 10 p.m. Pockets filled with tip money, we'd immediately drive at a high rate of speed for about two hours to the Brick House in State College to hear a band called the Intrigues. (By the way, if I ever hear of my teenage daughter attempting to do anything close to this I am going to lock her up... at least as long she lives with me and I own her car!)
I can probably guess why it was called the Brick House - because inside of the building there were very few distinct features or decorations that I can recall, other than the stage lights and the band.
If we were early, we'd stop at the basement bar Zeno's first for a beverage and then saunter down the couple blocks of alley where we could hear the music emanating and vibrating through the brick walls to the outside alley. We'd pay the cover and go in and enjoy the incredibly loud band and cheap beer.
The place was tiny, the bathroom was horrible, it looked like something that should be in a third world county - but the atmosphere, people, energy and music were always great.
Back then, my favorite song by the Intrigues was "These Boots were Made for Walking". Yes, it is a Nancy Sinatra song, but it took on an vibrant unexpected life when played by the Intrigues in a funky rock beat with trumpets. You just had to be there.
Fast forward a few decades...
Several weeks ago I happened to be in State College for business which required the first overnight stay in that town since my youthful twenties. Being alone and feeling reminiscent, I walked the alleys and made a visit to Zeno's - which incidentally, still has a world-class beer list and younger but still eccentric bar tenders. After comforting myself by having two incredible craft beers, I walked back to the hotel and eventually found the unassuming building that I thought was the brick house.
It looked quiet and sad. A sign hung on the door that read, "No bands No cover". I could hear nothing - no jukebox, no people, no conversation - only the swoosh of orderly traffic passing on the street up above.
I learned many bands got their start there; including Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band, the Earthtones, Trinity, and other bands I continued seeing into my twenties at other locations. And that wasn't all. Some of the stars that stopped by or played there were: Ace Freely, Leon Russell, Arlo Guthrie, Bill Monroe, Commander Cody, David Bromberg, Leon Redbone, Ritchie Havens, and Savoy Brown and the Wailers. It was evident by the pictures in the internet video how much fun those days and nights were.
Watching the video took me back to a simpler time, albeit a time that had to eventually end. The Brickhouse closed in 1990. The road trips ended. And I applied for law school not long after.
As I left the downtown area the next morning on the way to my engagement, I took one last fleeting look at what remained of the brick house. Dressed in my suit and high heels, my life had changed significantly over the years and sadly, so had the the Brick House. There were no sounds or vibrations emanating from its walls, and the frozen bricks stood as quiet as an igloo. "No bands, no cover." read the sign. A sad epitaph. Rest in Peace Brick house.
I just read one account that related the former site of the Brick House is now a parking lot. Thankfully, my previous trip gave me an opportunity to reminisce and pay my respects to an establishment that once brought me so much joy and left me with some terrific memories!