Rocketbar, beloved late-night refuge for rockers and industry types (and the people who want to make out with them), delivers its final “last call” at the end of December. The bar’s co-managers, Jen Medeiros and Jimmy Vavak, gave Playback STL the skinny on bidding adieu to what’s become a local music institution.

How long has Rocketbar been open? How did it get started?
JM: We opened Rocketbar in the summer 1998. Jimmy and I were both working at the original Hot Locust/Side Door and at the cocktail lounge next door, Pablo’s. We developed a relationship with Paul Weiss, owner of the original Hot Locust and Pablo’s. When he decided to close Pablo’s, we came to him with a plan to open a bar in that space: Rocketbar. He liked the idea, so he took us on as partners and supported us as we opened the bar that summer. Jimmy developed the concept for the bar—the decor and the layout—and he was always the person booking the shows and setting up events. I was the business manager.

What are some of your favorite Rocketbar moments?
JV: The most memorable moments for me are definitely the shows. Seeing At the Drive-In and Jimmy Eat World back in ’99 playing to half-empty rooms, prior to them being shown to the masses. Just being able to book bands like The Rapture, The Shins, Minus the Bear, Interpol, Rye Coalition, and TV on the Radio and watching people freak out about them. That was a great thing about the Rocketbar; folks would largely come down not even knowing if there were bands playing, and generally they would take a chance on us and be completely floored by a band they had never heard before.

JM: I always loved the Scaryoke parties at Halloween.

Most memorable Rocketbar show?
JV: My memory ain’t as good as she used to be. The one show in the last few years that comes to mind would have to be Captured by Robots last fall [2003], when he was doing his “Ten Commandments” tour. The show was sold out almost immediately after doors opened on a Tuesday night. The crowd was completely diverse, it is just so rare to see so many different types of music fans all enjoying the same band…er, dude with a robot band.

What’s next for you and the rest of the Rocketbar family?
JM: We have had the same staff essentially for six and a half years. We were all close friends before Rocketbar opened and that provided a very unique, trusting work environment. Some of us are finishing degrees; some are moving on to other business ventures.

JV: The most important aspect of the bar for me is booking the shows. After the bar closes, I plan on focusing on booking bigger shows around town. I already have a handful of shows set up at the Hi-Pointe in January, and when the big spring touring season kicks in, I expect to be quite busy. There are some great venues in this town and I look forward to working with the Hi-Pointe, Creepy Crawl, Way Out Club, Off Broadway, and hopefully some of the larger venues, as well. I will be starting my own independent booking company, so keep checking for the details.

Any big plans for Rocketbar’s final few nights?
JV: We have shows planned every night for the last week, leading up the final night on New Year’s Eve. The lineups are not solidified yet, but the bands playing are folks who were playing in bands and were supportive in the beginning when we had the smaller stage and a sound system built on a shoestring budget. The bands that are involved are Ring, Cicada, Shame Club, Robb Steele, Gassoff, Iron Doves, Camp Climax for Girls, Railers of Kiev, Riddle of Steel, and a few secret special guests.

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