With a slew of reopenings in June including services such as gyms, restaurants and bars, one Gainesville location must weather a few more weeks of closure.
Now halfway through the year, High Dive Facility and Events Manager Pat Lavery had a moment to reflect. Throughout the year so far, artists had been able to perform at the venue before the pandemic halted events in March.
Before the lockdown measures affected High Dive, Lavery said he recalled performances by original California punk band Black Flag and indie groups Beach Fossils and Surf Curse to be early highlights. The seventh anniversary High Dive food truck rally Feb. 1 also drew crowds, in this case, for the support of local food vendors and the UF Mobile Outreach Clinic.
“KRS-One put on a great show at High Dive back in January to a venue that was packed and lively,” said Christopher Wolf, a 19-year-old UF sustainability and the built environment freshman. He attended the Jan. 8 show that was booked by “Glory Days Presents!” Lavery’s promotion company that handles High Dive shows as well as other gigs across Florida.
“KRS himself delivered an energetic performance with greater passion than someone half his age,” Wolf said. At the end of the show, he invited budding rappers onto the stage to test their chops, a unique and entertaining twist on a hip-hop performance.”
“We had The Protomen and TWRP together, that was probably like our last big show that we had back in spring break,” Lavery said.
He handled their entire Florida tour through “Glory Days Presents!” with shows sold out in Orlando, Tampa and Gainesville.
“That was all the weekend before everything started happening, people were just starting to think about it [COVID-19] in the U.S.,” he said.
High Dive immediately followed suit combating health concerns with daily cleaning and hand sanitizer stations before a March 16 statewide shutdown of bars and similar businesses.
“People thought that we would be able to bounce back quickly, but within a couple of weeks people realized that this will be much longer,” Lavery said. “Every day that went by felt like a week because there was so much information and so much happening.”
Like many other facets of service industries in the U.S., High Dive moved online. Held May 2 and 29, home streaming benefits orchestrated by UF students Thomas Allain and Taylor Hadden aimed to provide music to recent graduates in line with support towards High Dive. Local bands including Saint Simon, Driveaway and The Hails performed sets from home while sharing their history with the venue and encouraging donations from viewers.
Much is still undecided for High Dive after Florida’s second phase of reopening. Lavery said they have continued to reach out to artists who were previously booked for Spring to come back as early as July with streaming options for patrons who are not ready to attend in person.
In normal conditions, it takes about one to six months to set up a show with an artist, he said. Now, with all the uncertainty, soft dates have been scheduled for those returns. Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fame and Mayday Parade are poised for fall shows while previous slates such as Kero Kero Bonito are undecided due to their overseas origins.
“When we do reopen, we will have safety processes in place,” Lavery said. “We will sanitize onstage equipment between bands among other things we’re still trying to determine. We’ve been trying to speak with local government to see what is required… and local artists in town to see when they’ll be ready to play again.”
Lavery said High Dive will be reliant on local bands that will be closely available distance wise. Larger artists will not return for a while due to lack of touring. It may not be until the middle of 2021 that their schedule will approach consistency. It all depends on the mindsets of everyone and whether they are receptive to returning, he said.
“It very much feels like we’re starting over again, it feels like we’re having a grand reopening,” he said. “But there’s still so much uncertainty. When we opened up High Dive, we had a plan and an idea of what we wanted to do. Nine years later, we know what we want to do but we’re very unsure if we can do it. We don’t know if the bands will be there, we don’t know what the virus will do, we don’t know if or when customers want to come back.”
While on their own in dealing with Gainesville matters, joining with the National Independent Venue Association has helped create a unified voice on a countrywide level. With nearly 2,000 members, NIVA continues to fight for venues which were some of the first businesses to close and the last that will be able to open. On May 21, NIVA sent letters to Congress imploring for relief for these foundations they believe to be essential to American culture and its artists.
According to a June 9 release from NIVA, “When surveyed, 90% of NIVA members said they will be forced to shutter forever if the shutdown lasts six months or longer and there’s no federal support.” They argue the Paycheck Protection Program is not enough to save independent venues as it does not cover fixed costs that will accrue as these places remain the last to reopen.
“We’re still very much in that fight,” Lavery said. “We’ve been closed since March 16, we don’t know when we can reopen. We know that our landlords need to be paid, we know our utilities bill has to be paid, our insurance still has to be paid. So what can you do for us?"
Contact Manny Rea at [email protected].