“. . . the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.”
–Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance
The theater where I saw the Faces—with Ronnie Wood and Stewart hiding behind the amps–, the Birmingham Palladium, no longer exists.
The Grande Ballroom, where I saw the original Fleetwood Mac—the one with Peter Green—is gone.
The Eastown Theater, where I saw Derek and the Dominos, is a memory. As are Derek and the Dominos.
What is important: the building or the memories? One could point out that were it not for the building there wouldn’t be the memories, which is absolutely true. But were I to drive down Grand River and see the sad remains of the Grande (if you’re interested in seeing it, the address if 8952 Grand River, Detroit; Google Maps has an image of the remaining structure), would it make much of a difference with the exception of a brief wave of nostalgia? If the Grande was purchased by some corporation and transformed into some faux-hip venue, would that make my memories any better?
Two miles southeast of the Grande on Grand River, the Olympia Stadium once existed. There is now an Army National Guard facility on the site and most of the property appears to be a shitty parking lot. Olympia was opened in 1927 (the Grande opened as a dance hall in 1928), closed in 1980 and was torn down in 1987.
I saw the Rolling Stones there. That band apparently continues to exist. I have no interest in seeing the present incarnation of the Stones. That the site where I saw one of the best concerts of my life is now something entirely different doesn’t much matter.
Right now we are in the midst of a plague. A plague that is burning through our lives, leaving charred and devastated rubble in many cases. Things that we did, places that we went to, activities that we were a part of are in all-too-many instances irrevocably changed. They won’t come back.
The National Independent Venue Association has been established to help save independent music performance centers that are likely to be closed as a result of COVID-19.
In a letter sent to Congress in efforts to get financial assistance for the ~800 operations that are members of NIVA, assistance in the form of loans, tax relief, insurance, and other measures, Dayna Frank, board president and owner of First Avenue & 7th St Entry in Minneapolis, writes, “Our stages give artists like Adele, U2, Keith Urban, Prince, Lizzo, the Eagles, Wu-Tang Clan and Foo Fighters their start. The world could be without the next Lady Gaga, Kenny Chesney, Chance the Rapper or Bruce Springsteen if we cease to exist.”
The letter is addressed to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Kevin McCarthy, and Mitch McConnell.
Does anyone think McConnell would be convinced by that argument?
To her credit, Frank also points out, “While we are small businesses”—and aren’t the Republicans the bulwarks of small business?—“the estimated direct annual economic impact we bring to our local communities is nearly $10 billion.”
That should raise some sleepy eyelids.
But let’s be frank.
There are going to be a lot of places you once went to that will become your Eastown or Grande. The bars and clubs and theaters aren’t going to come back.
The summer festivals that you attended with fervor and glee, excitement and camaraderie, are likely not to be held ever again.
Still, one day there will be a vaccine. And we will go about our lives again without masks and spacing and suspicions. We will drink and dance and enjoy.
But we will probably be doing that in places not that were, but places that are.
Here is hoping that NIVA is successful. That it manages to get money for venues.
Frank writes, “Many of our members such as Pabst Theater in Milwaukee (est. 1895), the UC Theatre Berkeley (est. 1916), the Wilma in Missoula (est. 1918), Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa (est. 1924), Newport Festivals in Rhode Island (est. 1954), the Troubadour in Los Angeles (est. 1957), Preservation Jazz Hall in New Orleans (est. 1961), First Avenue in Minneapolis (est. 1970), Exit/In in Nashville (est. 1971), Antone’s in Austin (est. 1975), the 40 Watt in Athens, GA (est. 1979), and Metro Chicago (est. 1979) are historic, iconic institutions that have withstood normal business cycles and economic hardships.”
That list is simply breathtaking. And a deadly respiratory virus may literally choke many of those concerns.
We will go back somewhere.
But many places will become memories, as is the case for many places in our lives.