Club Xenon was located in the Sugarhouse neighborhood of Salt Lake City. It was one of the few places young people from different social classes, musical taste, race, religion could and would gather together. All the city kids hung out there. On weekends, us suburbanites would sometimes join in, driving from the south end of the valley, along the Interstate and into the big city.
In my memory, there were at least two dance floors- one for the top 40 hits of the day, and another for the alternative music lovers, like me and my group of friends. I can’t remember if the alternative dance floor was upstairs or down, front or back of the club, but I do remember the music, and the way kids danced to certain bands. It was the late 80’s, pre-Nirvana, the tail end of the hair bands, and hip-hop had not yet infiltrated the mainstream of white middle America. We all wore our hair long and straight. Mine was not quite as long as I wanted, and I felt some envy, watching who I thought were the cooler kids, bangs below their chins, heads down, dancing to music from bands like the Cult, Descendents, Celtic Frost, (early) Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dead Kennedys. I was into most of these bands, pretended to like the others.
While many of the details about Xenon (colors, smells, actual number of times I visited) have faded, I do remember how I felt when inside that club- a mix of excitement, fear, happiness. I was out with friends, 18 years old, feeling like I was grown up, ready to take on the world, all the while unaware of the multitude of life events that were almost upon me, lingering just outside my vision.
In the early 90’s, the club changed names and musical focus, going more Gothic, then Grunge (I hate that word), until finally, as part of the grand redevelopment plan for the area, the building was torn down in favor of a drug store.
My wife and I moved to an apartment just north of Sugarhouse in 1995, then bought our first house on the east end of the area in 2001. Living there was wonderful. It was the offbeat part of Salt Lake, a place that didn’t fit the conservative stereotype. It was different, unexpected.
Things change, and often what makes something interesting or strange draws in a crowd intent on improving it. More families moved into the area. The surrounding neighborhoods became more gentrified. The quirkiness of Sugarhouse began to be discussed using phrases like blight on the city, or a hot bed of criminal activity.
The people behind those phrases had money, and money always wins.
The area has undergone more than its share of upscale makeovers. The head-shops, piercing studios, record stores, dance clubs, and sexy boutiques have moved away or been torn down, replaced by expensive condominiums, high end restaurants and shopping. Few if any of the original buildings remain, and in many ways the area seems more bland than vibrant.
If you look though, you can still find a few amazing places-
A great coffee shop.
a few tasty pubs.
and one of the best libraries ever.
I’ve moved back to the suburbs and it was a good decision. My kids are happier, have amazing friends and opportunities, but if I am honest, I desperately miss living in Sugarhouse, even with all the changes, it still fees like home.
I go back often, it isn’t that far away.