Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Say Goodbye To Sidney Hih

Sidney Hih Lost Dutchman's Mine
My first club show was at a place called The Lost Dutchman’s Mine. It was the basement bar in the Sidney Hih building. Later, the bar would go on to be called The Unicorn, and it was run by a locally famous man who went to open a number of Mexican restaurants. In between all of that, it was a gay bar called “The Golden Shaft,” but few people remember that. Many great national bands played at The Unicorn, and just as many local artists took their turn at the wheel in that dark, musty club. We now see that the Sidney Hih building is about to be torn down. Upon hearing the news, a small number of nostalgic folks want to keep their memories alive by forcing the city to reconsider the demolition. While I will never forget that my very first gig was in that building, I say it’s time to move on. Tear down Sidney Hih.

When it was called The Lost Dutchman’s Mine, the entire place was painted dark brown. The plaster walls were formed in a way that you really felt like you were in a mine. There were faux timbers above the bar, booths set deep in fake dead-end shafts, and a conversation pit in the main room was always a great spot to hang with your friends. From what I hear, it was not the best place to partake in hallucinogenic adventures, unless you were into that “I must be dead, because I’m deep underground” feeling. The stage was tucked into a corner of the main room, and I remember that the drum riser was soft, as the wood was rotting away. Most nights, the cover was $3 or less. This was a punk bar where drinks were cheap, and the bands didn’t make very much money. Still, we liked playing there. The crowds were good, and as long as you could make it up those overly carpeted stairs at the end of the night, you were probably going to make the club a regular stop as a band or a fan of live music.

As for what to do with the building now, I’m against restoring Sidney Hih. One of the charms of the building is that it was a cheap rent heaven for local musicians. The same could be said for the retail space on the first floor. Cheap rent usually means that the building is falling apart or not well maintained. That was certainly the case when it comes to Sidney Hih. The building has been unoccupied for a very long time, so why didn’t someone speak up when the last tenant moved out? It’s time to keep memories, and let go of the structure. The very nature of bars, clubs, and retail spaces is that they evolve to keep up with the tastes of new generations.

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