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Reunion show remembers teen club

Lawrence Pierce
In this photo from 1999, Bob Webb sits on the stage at the old Common Grounds Coffeehouse just weeks before it closed. The Empty Glass is staging a reunion show Friday honoring the popular '90s all-ages venue.
WANT TO GO?Common Grounds Reunion With Flounder, Chemical Results, Patterns of Force and The Tom McGeesWHERE: The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St.WHEN: 9 p.m. COST: FreeINFO: 304-345-3914 or www.emptyglass.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jessica Rogers doesn't know if she's the right person to be putting together a Common Grounds reunion, but nobody else was doing it. She said, "I just took the initiative."On Saturday night, the 29-year-old and other fans of the old Summers Street coffeehouse will gather at The Empty Glass to listen to some bands and reminisce about the well-remembered all-ages club.Bands scheduled to appear are Flounder, Chemical Results, Patterns of Force and The Tom McGees. Most contain musicians who either played Common Grounds in the '90s or spent time there. The evening will also feature a two-hour open mic for former Common Grounds musicians.Common Grounds was a popular all-ages club from 1993 to 1999, back when smoke- and alcohol-free music venues were a harder sell. A combination coffeehouse and music venue, it began on the West Side then moved downtown in 1995 when it outgrew the West Side space.Jess Gunno, guitarist for Chemical Results, said he and others in the band are "pumped" about performing Saturday.
"It's more than a gig for us," he said. "This is like our third public show, but some of us used to hang out at Common Grounds. It was a good place for kids to go and gave them something to do besides stay out on the streets and do drugs."Gunno said Common Grounds and the other all-ages clubs of the time were an important proving and training ground for young bands. It also put people together and helped musicians start bands.
Metal vocalist Lee Harrah, who isn't planning on performing Saturday, said one of his first shows at an established venue was at Common Grounds."It was fantastic," he said. "You didn't see floor in that place. The crowd was just crazy and just going there, you saw punks with Minor Threat t-shirts, metalheads with Metallica t-shirts and preppies. From what I remember, everybody got along."Mostly.Harrah said the night of his band's show, about an hour before they went on, a kid ran through the front door and begged for help before he was dragged back out into the street and beaten. At the time, he thought it was cool that the police got called to one of his shows. Looking back, not so much.  Through it's entire run, Common Grounds struggled, both financially and with rising crime in the downtown area. (It's location, now home to Tobacco Discount Store, was near both the Transit Mall and Brawley Walkway.) After the club closed, owner Bob Webb told the Gazette he never made a living from the business and wound up loaning it cash to keep it afloat.The club is still missed. Periodically, teen clubs in the area have sprung up, but none have had any staying power. Harrah, Gunno and Rogers said that's unfortunate and that Kanawha County really needs a place dedicated to all-age shows.
"Part of what made Common Grounds great is that it was a place where kids could meet kids," Gunno said."It was just a good place to go," Rogers said. "It was better than hanging out on the streets. I still like all-age shows. The energy is just so much better, and everybody is out to hear the music not just get drunk."Rogers said she hoped Saturday's reunion would be something that could be continued and maybe grow. Currently unemployed, she said she was doing this more out of love than to make a buck."Hopefully somebody else will take it over who knows more stuff," she said.   Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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