Everyone remembers the sweat.

Even on the mildest Brisbane night, a visible humid haze would hang over the crowd. A good 30-centimetre aura that radiated off punters having the time of their lives.

This was The Zoo: grungy, vital, welcoming, loud. Site of epic musical debuts and intimate gigs with bands whose names seemed far too big for that perilously tiny stage. It had the city’s friendliest bar staff and its dodgiest stairs. And for 32 years it generated that trademark tropical rock’n’roll halo: part sweat, part (back in the day) ciggie smoke, part messy musical rapture.

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The place was small, but it felt like it belonged to all of us. And even when the air-con was finally installed, we earned that sweat.

Brisbane crowds are famously apeshit. We don’t usually go in for silently crossing our arms and coolly nodding our heads. We’ll get over-enthused and mosh to just about anything. Even when it doesn’t make sense.

Historically, we were just grateful that any touring band had made the trek north. But we also knew how to make our own fun: when locals performed, we weren’t above a little parochial hometown pride. We were the little scene that could. (Plus, we probably knew the bassist’s housemate’s sister. Or maybe the singer worked at our local servo or video shop. This was Brisbane, after all.)

With a capacity of 500, The Zoo was always an intimate space. Noise spilled out onto Ann Street – and the McWhirters Car Park across the road was the perfect spot to listen in on a sound check. But inside was small. A clubhouse that felt appropriately punk and makeshift no matter how long it stood, crammed with sonic goodness.

For music-lovers it was a thrill to see big-name national and international acts play up-close and personal. Pixies, the National, Interpol, Lorde, You Am I, Silverchair, Nick Cave.

There was barely any backstage. Entrances and exits were made directly from the bandroom – performers returning for an encore only had two or three unceremonious steps to take before launching into another song. There was nowhere to hide, and sometimes nowhere to stand. More than one performer took a tumble into the crowd.

The touring names were impressive, but a larger part of The Zoo’s legacy will be the local acts who called it home. Generations of Brisbane rock, from legendary bands like the Onyas and the Go-Betweens through the ’90s Bris-pop days of Powderfinger, Regurgitator, George, Custard and Screamfeeder. Post-Y2K The Zoo nurtured a new onslaught of sounds from Sekiden, the Grates, Iron On, Giants of Science, the Butterfly Effect, the Boat People. And the hits keep coming: Violent Soho, Tired Lion, Dune Rats, DZ Deathrays, The Chats, Ball Park Music.

For every name on that roll call there are at least 100 lesser-known acts that rocked just as hard and meant just as much to the crowd. To the end, The Zoo was still a place where you could have a go. A community from management, bookers and bar staff to bands and performers and every punter who ever shuffled up that narrow staircase (or dug in their pockets for a fundraiser) in support of live music.

The Zoo’s last day of trade is July 8. It’ll be weird to have it fall silent after all these years, and music fans everywhere should feel the loss. Like we have with too many other shuttering gig spots across the country.

It’s not enough to pour one out for these lost venues. We must support the precious spots we have left. Go see a local band. Shout another round. Tip the bartender. Buy the merch. Tell your friends. Get sweaty and get rowdy. That’s the legacy of The Zoo.