Leigh Likes Music: What Shall We Do Now?
Leigh Nash chats with Chris Cobb from the Exit/In and Mike Grimes from The Basement East about what's next for our music venues.
Shall we buy a new guitar?
Shall we drive a more powerful car?
Shall we work straight through the night?
Shall we get into fights?
Leave the lights on?
Do tours of the east?
Break up homes?
Send flowers by phone?
Take to drink?
Go to shrinks?
Give up meat?
Keep people as pets?
Fill the attic with cash?
Store up leisure?
But never relax at all
With our backs to the wall
-Pink Floyd - What Shall We Do Now
It’s hard not to fill up this column with lyrics. I could probably just fill this space with brilliant lines from brilliant minds and form a pretty cohesive train of thought. But you and I are stuck with me.
I worry and wonder constantly if the Nashville music scene has hit a wall it can’t climb over, but as I talk to friends and read the lamentations of fellow musicians on various social media platforms, I am cautiously encouraged and optimistic. We have to roll our sleeves up, but when have we not been willing to do that? We’re travelers, gypsies, vagabonds, and tough as hell.
Still, there is the stark reality that venues are closing all over the country, the folks that run them having to resort to whatever, anything at all to keep the bills paid or at least hold back the tide of debt we are all surely incurring to get by.
Now, I’ve heard Kiss Me over the speakers of countless gas stations while my check card was declined for gas too many times to count. I looked up to the sky and chuckled through tears, “Is this a joke?” We’ve all got stories. But these times are surely generating stories of a more dire nature.
I consider any creative run-off, run-down, or run-out a tragedy. Because that means that’s at least one song from one soul, we won’t get to hear. One of my favorite songwriters and a man I’m proud to call a friend, Richard Leigh once told me, “did you know creatives make up only 7% of the population? Do you know how special and vital that makes us?” I’m not sure of the factual nature of that information, but I sure appreciated the encouragement at the time.
I was grateful to speak to one of our most valuable human commodities in Nashville, Chris Cobb. It was the first interview I’d ever conducted and was so wonderfully relieved not to be asked “Hey, where did the name Sixpence None the Richer come from?” But I was still nervous because I still have the feeling I’m a St Bernard running a candy store writing this column.
We spoke about NIVA, the National Independent Venue Association. As of now, touring is 90% gone, and they are doing critical work to save our nation’s venues. 60 venues as I write this, have closed permanently nationwide. NIVA’s website states its mission is to preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent venues and promoters throughout the United States. They have gone from 0 to 3000 members in 6 months. Obviously, gaining support quickly as music, and places to feel and experience it are so vital. Not to mention the thousands who are losing income daily due to the shutdown. We also spoke about S.O.S. We need our senators to STEP UP to Save Our Stages. You can go to saveourstages.com to add your name to a letter to Senators Lamar Alexander, Marsha Blackburn, and Representative Mark Green to implore the RESTART act to be pushed through speedily.
Some companies are profiting quite well due to the pandemic. Amazon and liquor companies just to name a couple. There is so much need, and no doubt people are helping where they can, but our industry is in dire need. Some of these companies have got to step up, step in, and offer relief to our music community for us to recover and begin to thrive again.
I also spoke to Mike Grimes, most of us know him as Grimey. Promoter, venue, and record store owner - the dude, the man. I asked him two pretty 1st grade questions just for simplicity’s sake. Maybe it just felt best to start with square one.
First I asked, what his greatest hope for the recovery of our scene is and how we can help get there.
“The greatest hope for our scene is financial assistance on the local, state, and federal levels.” He said. “They must all recognize the economic impact that live music venues have on businesses in their neighborhood i.e. restaurants, retail outlets, paid parking, etc. Reputable live music venues are a significant artery in the heart of a city like Nashville. Above all keep hope alive!!! Attitude is crucial.”
What is your worst fear, and how can we stop it?
“My worst fear is that the live music industry will not return soon enough. Quelling our worst fears might require pivoting our spaces temporarily into alternate usage, looking into any and all ways for our space to generate revenue until national act touring returns. Our outside deck is huge, perfect for socially distanced hangs. Inside is perfect for video shoots, streaming, and more.
We will rise.....I know it!”
Love that guy. With dudes like Chris Cobb and Grimey (and countless others), my hopes are high.
So...go to mvan.org (Music Venue Alliance of Nashville) if you can make a donation. It is super easy if you’ve got the skrills.
Please also check out the awesome work NIVA is doing as well as SOS (Save our Stages) and be relentless in hitting up our Senators and representatives which you can do at saveourstages.com.
Hopefully, very soon, this will be a memory, albeit a painful one, but laced with stories of endurance, hope, and the everlasting power of love and music.
Because I can’t help it, I’ll wrap this up with some of my favorite Willie Nelson words, I’m not sure how they apply except that they represent excellence.
Half my life riding on a rocket
From one world to the next
And on and on
I hit the wall
Taking things to make it make me better
Remembering things I never knew I knew
I hit the wall
I hit the wall
And the wall came down
And there was not a sound
- Willie Nelson - The Wall
Like gold, all over this town, all you artists, please HANG ON. Keep sparkling, keep digging deep, don’t give up. I cannot wait to see your next live show.
All my Love,