Music is purported to have magical healing features. I’m not sure if it can do anything about arthritic toe joints, but I know when I hear bad news a good song can take the sting out of it.
Like this week, I got confirmation of something I’d heard rumblings about a few weeks ago — the impending closing of The Brickhouse — but I had a chance to get a sneak preview of Nick Shattuck’s new song, “Sorry for the Weather,” and it helped.
The song itself was a little bit of therapy for Shattuck, a West Salem native who moved to Los Angeles seven years ago. He was back in La Crosse last April to play Mid West Music Fest and a show up in the Twin Cities. You might recall we had a blizzard that weekend, and Shattuck couldn’t get to the Twin Cities gig.
Everybody kept apologizing to Shattuck about the poor weather for his visit, and he eventually turned that around, saying it must be his fault, that he brought it with him. Shattuck decided to chill out in the cabin of his folks’ boat docked near Tom Sawyer’s.
On that boat, with the snow flying outside, the song came to him. “It just came out of nowhere on a snowy afternoon,” he said. “It was a sloppy mess. I think I saw every type of snow I haven’t seen in seven years. I was kind of secretly loving it.”
With no gig and a fresh song, Shattuck called up Joe Gantzer, who was the first one to ever record Shattuck, and they got together at Gantzer’s house to record it, with percussion help from Gantzer’s TUGG bandmate Ben Rohde.
“It’s a very Wisconsin folk song,” Shattuck said. “To me, it’s almost old Nick Shattuck, a bit of the folkie side.”
Michael Von Muchow mastered the track at Actual Size Studio, and local artist Chad Haugen created a snowglobe image to go with the song, which premieres on Jan. 30 — which happens to be the anniversary of a huge blizzard that pummeled Milwaukee.
The song will be streamed live at 8 p.m. that day on the Scenes Facebook page, and will be available on the other major digital platforms, including Spotify (where you can also find a cool new song called “The Valley” that he released in December).
Shattuck also has “Sorry for the Weather” hoodies and coffee mugs for sale on his merch site, and if you buy them during January and February, a portion of the proceeds to the Salvation Army in La Crosse.
Shattuck hopes to come back for a local show in the summer, but he won’t get to play The Brickhouse, which is closing and going out with a bang with two big shows April 26-27 that have yet to be announced.
Since it opened in December 2016 in the former Eagles Club building, The Brickhouse has become my favorite place to see music (and not just because they can make a good Rusty Nail). I remember interviewing the guys from Deathless Dogs in the Brickhouse while venue owner Keith Brown unpacked new speakers for the sound system there, and he was so excited.
Brown built a great stage and equipped it with top-notch sound and light gear, and he built an elevated “booth” for the sound board at the back of the room. A lot of local bands accustomed to having to play in cramped tavern corners got a chance to perform there, and so have some bigger-name national acts, like the Kentucky Headhunters, Royal Bliss, Hamilton Loomis, Parmalee, October Rage and Bobaflex.
The place has some really big shows coming that already have been announced, including Hinder (next weekend), Buckcherry, Tantric and Puddle of Mudd. Given all that, I thought The Brickhouse was just hitting its stride and had big things ahead, and now it’s closing.
It’s not like Brown didn’t love having The Brickhouse or that it wasn’t a success, really. He said he had to sell it because to make good on a friend’s investment in the building, but he might be hooked on being part of the music scene.
“The music business in La Crosse is awesome,” Brown said. “The best part of opening a venue is meeting new people.”
Brown has come to appreciate what a strong appetite there is for the big national acts — Buckcherry sold out in 50 minutes and Puddle of Mudd tickets were gone in 2½ hours. Now he’s thinking he’d like to open another bigger venue to feed the beast.
“I think The Brickhouse is a little too big for local bands and too small for national acts like Buckcherry,” Brown said.
Imagine if Brown got the 1,000-seat Hollywood Theater, just a block down Fifth Avenue from The Brickhouse, up and running after sitting fallow for so long. It’s just a concrete shell now inside and would take a ton of work and money to revive, but I’ve seen Brown transform The Brickhouse, and I don’t doubt he could revive the Hollywood.
I saw George Thorogood and Richard Thompson concerts at the Hollywood, and the place has hosted shows by Arlo Guthrie, George Winston, Jackyl, Toby Keith and maybe even Frank Sinatra when he was part of the Hoboken Four back in 1938.
Area music fans owe Brown a heaping helping of gratitude for all he’s done, and I know I’m not alone in wishing him all the best in his pursuit of another music venue adventure.
Rock on …