The COVID-19 outbreak has left Gainesville music venues with empty stages.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused a halt in independent local music scenes, leaving entertainers and musicians uncertain about the future. Navigating this unpredictable time alongside the artists, however, are the music venues that provide the lights, stage and community that allow performers to perform and musicians to be heard.
Due to health concerns, a Florida-wide executive order to close all food and beverage establishments and artists halting their tours or cancelling gigs, local venues are facing unprecedented times — and are looking to the community for help.
Pat Lavery, High Dive’s facility and events manager, said with unavoidable expenses and no income, said the only way he can see High Dive surviving is through community support.
“If High Dive is important to people and they want to see a dedicated, thriving music venue in town, bringing in bigger tours and also giving local bands and comedians and all sorts of other different performers a platform… then we're really going to need that support from the community to keep going,” he said.
From showcasing national acts, local artists and everything in between, High Dive has acted as one of Gainesville’s strongest links to the entertainment world for years. Lavery said the venue had a lot planned for the spring and hopes to continue producing shows once open again.
“Once we get reopened, it's going to take a lot of quick action from the community – from the artist community – for us to get new events on board,” he said.
In the meantime, Lavery said, the venue has launched several fundraising avenues, including a GoFundMe page and a season pass. The season pass starts at $59 and is a one-time payment that gives access to all Summer 2020 shows at High Dive.
Teaming up with Five Star Pizza, High Dive is also offering a pizza and alcohol delivery service within a five-mile radius of downtown. All proceeds from fundraising efforts go towards the reopening of High Dive and supporting staff.
“I can't stress enough how dire the situation is for venues like us,” Lavery said. “Really the only way we get money is that people are in the building and that’s impossible right now. It’s very difficult.”
The Wooly, a local music venue and event hall, is focusing on encouraging community support while their events calendar has been wiped clean, said Bailey Bruce, events director. She said the downtown Gainesville venue’s peak season is March through May, with weddings, parties, concerts and dance nights.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Bruce wrote in an email. “We love our jobs and it's very disheartening how quickly our day-to-day has changed right now.”
Bruce said the venue is asking for online support. She invites the community to like the venue Facebook page, leave an online review, interact with their social media accounts and continue to book events for future dates.
“My most pressing hope is that inquiries start coming in again,” Bruce said. “This time of year I am normally answering inquiries for eight hours a day. However, we are still here and looking to the future and know this pandemic will not last forever.”
Heartwood Soundstage, Gainesville’s fusion between a live music venue and a video and streaming production studio, is not only trying to support itself, but musicians as well, said Dave Melosh, one of the owners.
The venue hosted a virtual live music event March 20, where over $900 was raised, 100 percent of which, Melosh said, went to the artists.
“I think it's really important that we're supporting the artists that support us,” he said.
While the venue was live streaming shows before its closure, it’s now exclusively streaming events that haven’t been cancelled or rescheduled for a pay-what-you-want rate, Melosh said.
The venue’s streaming abilities have led to their partnership with UF Shands Health Arts in Medicine to produce videos of artists who typically would be performing for patients and can no longer do so.
“This is a very challenging time for most people,” Melosh said. “But also a time that people are able to reflect on what's important to them, and also how important music and art is to everyone's day-to-day life. Sometimes that's taken for granted.”
Contact Chloe Greenberg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @_chloegreenberg.