Hundreds of people gathered to bid farewell to the site of an iconic location that has played a significant role in the growth of the industrial and gothic scene – as well as the LGBTQIA+ community – in Raleigh.
The small brick building at 2 S. West Street in downtown might not look like much from the outside, but its basement holds decades of memories for those who frequented The Fallout Shelter or FLEX. Soon this building will be gone.
As part of the farewell event, Steve Halberstadt, the DJ who originally hosted the industrial dance parties the venue became known for, worked to bring The Fallout Shelter back to life in its original location for a last night. More than three decades after closing its doors, more than 250 people have lined up to dance to those childhood memories again.
Photos show guests dressed in fishnets and leather, posing in front of the iconic Fallout Shelter sign.
“It amazes me that three decades later people still want to come together and remember,” Halberstadt said. “It was like stepping back in time.”
Remembering Raleigh’s industrial and gothic scene
Many who have attended industrial parties at Legends may not realize that the origins can be traced back to The Fallout Shelter.
The Fallout Shelter opened in 1985, but it would be a few years before Halberstadt hosted its famous dance parties there.
He hosted industrial gothic dance parties in the clubhouse of his apartment complex.
“I would put up a bunch of fliers and invite people to come and dance to music that I couldn’t hear anywhere else,” he said.
He expected maybe 20 people to show up – and was floored when more than 120 guests arrived. One of the guests was someone from WKNZ, who was familiar with The Fallout Shelter. Seeing an opportunity to collaborate, Halberstadt was invited to spin industrial music on Monday nights at Fallout Shelter.
“At the time, there were no other clubs playing industrial music. It was new,” Halberstadt said. “It was aimed at the younger clientele that we tended to attract – students.”
He said the music spoke to the angst of current political situations at the time and provided a way to “dance out your anger”.
“Everyone felt safe:” A place for people who felt like misfits
Even in 1989, Halberstadt described the crowd was also super inclusive and hugely diverse.
“There could be preparations or people dressed in their best gothic outfits. Punks, LGBTQIA+, old people and young people. Everyone felt safe there,” he said.
Maybe that’s why even three decades later, people have such a fondness for The Fallout Shelter.
“You might be a bit of a misfit — because you’re around other people, who may not be the same kind of misfits as you are, but they’re misfits in their own way,” he said.
Due to the extreme hospitality and openness, Halberstadt recalls that The Fallout Shelter attracts a very diverse crowd.
Because there was no internet, this kind of music and community spread by word of mouth.
“You had to look for something like that – and when you found it, it was like a gold mine that you had found,” he said.
Around 1992, The Fallout Shelter peaked in numbers. Grunge music became the new popular scene, and there weren’t as many new bands that fit into the industrial genre.
“That’s when the owner decided it was time for a change,” Halberstadt said. “And after five years of huge success with DJ parties, I was also ready for a break.”
That’s when Legends picked up the slack, taking over industrial and gothic parties.
“Last night, someone even drew a little map showing people how to get to Legends, in case they want to keep dancing to industrial music,” he said.
FLEX nightclub provides a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community
A few years later, FLEX took over the basement and began providing a gathering space for Raleigh’s LGBTQIA+ community.
Just as The Fallout Shelter’s industrial nights shifted to Legends, FLEX is also moving some of its lineup to Legends, at least temporarily.
According to FLEX’s website, it plans to reopen in a new space this fall and will provide updates on the location.
In the meantime, FLEX also honored the memories of its time at the soon-to-be-demolished site by hosting a “Last Night in the Basement” party.
Thirty years later, The Fallout Shelter opens one last time
Three decades later, The Fallout Shelter’s final night proved that his spirit hadn’t changed much.
“Since it’s a basement, it’s stayed pretty much the same. It’s underground,” Halberstadt said. “That’s why it was so great to have one last reunion party in this space.”
It was the sixth reunion party he’s hosted over the decades – but he said it was magical to have the final reunion in the same space where they started.
Even though life has changed over the past 30 years, he says it was amazing to see so many familiar faces.
“People who went to The Fallout Shelter are now in their 40s and 50s. We have careers and kids. Going out on a Monday night isn’t something we do that much anymore,” he said. “But so many people made arrangements and got out – and it warms my heart that there was such an impact.”
Halberstadt says the magic of old times was resurrected on the dance floor, which was packed for more than five hours.
“The reviews from people who remember have been rave reviews – and I’m so proud that I was able to make the atmosphere available, but it’s the customers who have always done the magic and they still do,” he said. -he declares.
In memory of those days, Halberstadt has recreated the original Fallout Shelter t-shirts. He had personally created 100 of them, but they sold out that night. House of Swank has agreed to create a second set of shirts, but they will only be available until August 3.