If you were a teen in the 80s or 90s in Grand Rapids, I'll bet you set foot in this certain all-ages club out on Alpine Avenue at least once, if not every week you could. The place went by a few different names during it's run. Thunderchicken, Red Zone, DV8... but it would mostly be remembered as Club 911 or Top of the Rock.
It seems a really unlikely situation for a successful club. It was a warehouse-looking building surrounded by woods, pretty far out on Alpine near 6-Mile. There must have been few options for underage kids in those days.
I had grown up in smalltown Michigan and though I wasn't a total hick, I would say I hadn't been exposed to a lot of different culture. When I found Top of the Rock in '87 it was like a different planet. An awesome planet!
I know they did other theme nights other days of the week at Top of the Rock but I never went to any but the alternative nights.
At some point in the night, I remember the music would change to some harder stuff.... I imagine them playing "Master of Puppets" and "Turbo Lover" but I'm not sure if that really happened but a slam-pit ensued. Something I had never really witnessed before, you know, in the country. Bunch of dudes alternating between going in a circle and beating the shit out of each other. If somebody fell down, somebody would always help them back up. They only did the pit once a night and only maybe 3 songs and then it would go back to dance time.
After a pretty unrewarding highschool experience, finding a place like this seemed like a breakthrough. I went as often as I could.
|Many long-time GR residents "of a certain age" went to Top back in the day. The hispanic-looking dude in the left half of this photo happens to be GR bar-photographer extrordinare, Two-Eagles Marcus.|
Other things I can remember.... plenty of underage drinking, usually in somebody's car in the lot.
Sneaking people in. The kids who couldn't make the $3 cover would go around to the fire escape door and wait for somebody to open up and let them in.
Lots of groping and making out during slow dances.
Going there "on acid."
Donating plasma the day before in order to have enough money for acid and the cover to get into Top.
I remember the kids always calling it "Tip Of The Cock" har har.
Bands would sometimes play. I seem to remember that Information Society played there but I didn't go that week.
I am pretty sure a kid DIED in the place. I may have actually witnessed this. I remember finishing up on one of the video games in the little game room and walking out to find the music off and all the kids standing around the sides of the dance floor as a kid was being taken out by paramedics on a stretcher. He was mumbling delirious. Then at some point in the week I heard he actually died on the way to the hospital. Never found out what had really happened.
I am not really sure at what point or why they started with the name-changes but I remember in the 90s it became Club 911 and new generations were coming in as other kids were getting old enough to go to bars and moved on to Reptile House or "Alternative A to X" at the Orbit Room.
A lot of the people I still have contact with from back then are younger than me and will remember it more from the 911 era and never went when it was TOTR.
|Before Top of the Rock, back in the 70s the place was known as Thunder Chicken. Wish I could've experienced that!|
|Long gone now, the building is now Hanson's Collision|