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Real life downtown

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Why should you care about some old bar?

Clubs come and go after all. And sometimes what takes place inside (and outside) isn't exactly a church picnic. The Brewery, as clubs go, had its good times and its rotten times. Rather than go out with a bang, it faded away in February.

It was a legend more than 21 years in the making. We can only guess (though we asked, owner Kenny Hobby isn't talking) that it was a mix of bad economics and low energy that took the bar under. The bookings of late were irregular and the competition from other clubs was tough and getting tougher.

There was a time, though, when The Brewery was pretty much all Raleigh had to offer when it came to live rock music. There were other places around, of course, but the club served as the town's host for thousands of national acts. It was the cradle (or perhaps the crucible) for Raleigh's music scene. The town's metal edge of the '80s and '90s was sharpened on its stage. And when bands and styles veered toward a new style of country, it was the crowds at The Brewery that got an early taste of what was to come.

Sure there were a lot of sorry nights, sour notes, spilt beers, and occasional fisticuffs, but the place was for real. And that's why you should care.

Creating music, real music--the kind that comes from the gut and hits you there--isn't always a pretty process. Getting up on any stage to hammer out what you've been working on in a garage or a basement feels as risky as a stage dive into a sparse crowd. Having a place where it was all right to push the envelope, to try something new, to color outside the lines made a lot of people who still play music around here much better at what they do. We owe The Brewery and the folks who worked there thanks for that.

There's a lot of lip service given to the importance of music and what policy makers and downtown planning consultants like to call "a vibrant nightlife." But rock clubs--or rock bands for that matter--rarely get credit for improving the quality of life around here. They do, of course, and they feed that Creative Class everyone's raving about in ways that other, more sedate venues can't.

The Brewery added color to the capital and in doing so sometimes scrawled outside the lines. But so what? It rocked.

Editor's note: We'd like to congratulate former Indy writer Dan Neil for winning the Pulitzer Prize in criticism this week. Neil had just returned to the Indy in 2002 when he was offered a job writing about automobiles at the Los Angeles Times. He won the Pulitzer for his automotive writing there. To take a look at his prize-winning work, go to: www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-neil-pulitzer,1,5773472.htmlstory?coll=la-home-headlines . To see his stories in the Independent, go to www.indyweek.com/durham/authors/danneil.html.

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