"If you must open your mouth," read a poster in the back room that had been there forever, "Speak In Tongues."
David Petrovich (aka "Dave P. the place to be" aka The Perfect Guy) put it up to inspire Grain's West Coast trip back in '95 or so, but it remained an appropriate slogan - especially as few people knew it was there.
That was the thing about Speak In Tongues: more myth than reality, it was also more real than it ever could have seemed..
Those who never went there, or those who've only heard about it after the fact, can't imagine it. It wasn't what one thinks of when one thinks of a music venue, which is how it is primarily remembered. It was the West Side epicenter of the underground, no matter high-minded that may sound:
a social club, gathering place, residence, crash pad, rehearsal hall, group therapy center, riot ground, support system, and totally against the "law,"
Speak In Tongues hosted a dynamic array of events, not limited to the 2,000+ performances by musical acts including names famous, unknown and notorious. There were movies, plays, happenings, meetings, parties and camaraderie (and fights, trash, disputes, arrests, raids, fires, floods and animals.)
All this without a license, without "management," without a leader - a true collective long before it eventually became one, a concrete manifestation of the febrile lasting hopes and desires of generations of certain types of people, Speak In Tongues was for and of those who believed and who continue to believe, often without return, that there's something better. And what's better is to take it, make it and make it happen, whatever the hell that is.
Speak In Tongues belonged to everyone. When it closed, something very special was lost, and in many ways, that spirit yet founders without another real home. The diaspora is often unspoken; the loss still is painful. Speak In Tongues can never be duplicated, never re-created - but that doesn't mean "don't try."
It means remember. It means recall. It means rebuild.
--- Matt Damn Kuchna, August 2003.