A teenage punk fan makes his way through the screams of Champaign’s Dick Justice and approaches the club owner. Shouting over the din, he politely asks for help calculating his bowling score.

This ain’t no Mud Club. It’s Fireside Bowl.

For the past year or so, punk and underground bands have been mixing sets and games at Fireside on Fullerton Avenue near California. What began as a sporadic event put on by individual bands has blossomed into a regular scene, with three unofficial bookers bringing groups in nearly every weekend.

“It’s challenging to find places that will have all-ages shows,” says Dave Eaves, one of the bookers. “There’s not a lot of money to be made, and people are afraid of potential problems.”

So punks in need of space and a bowling alley short on regulars have found each other. Bands set up at the far end of the worn bowling alley, beyond the Lustre King Custom Ball Conditioner and Rock-ola jukebox.

“Bowling has slowed down,” says laconic Jim Lapinski, 25, the owner of Fireside Bowl. He began working at the alley at age ten, and took over ownership from his father last year. Most nights, seated behind the bar with a golf magazine, Lapinski runs a one-man show, renting out shoes and tending bar. “Ten years ago, if you went to a factory and took a survey, eight out of ten people bowled. Now you’d be lucky to get two out of ten. Young people just don’t bowl.”

Nor do they mosh. Gone are the mohawks and skinheads. Tonight’s crowd wears earplugs and expensive gym shoes. And rather than slam against each other, they stand motionless and stare at the band, Stepford style.

“I just wanna know if we can play here during the week when there are bowling leagues with the fancy shirts and stuff,” says the drummer between songs. The kids continue to stand and stare.

Lapinski doesn’t even look up from his magazine. “I don’t pay that much attention to the music,” he says.

Shows are scheduled for most weekends this summer. Thursday July 21 Shroom Union and Hub Cap play, Friday July 22 it’s Jerkwater, Spavid, and Tree. Fireside Bowl is at 2646 W. Fullerton. Cover for most shows is $5, games run $1.50 each, shoes $1. For more information call 486-2700 after 6 PM.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Mike Tappin.