Crucial local music haven Monterey Live to suddenly shut its doors Monday.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
At 7:15pm Saturday night, a text message was received by the Weekly, stating: “Monterey Live is closing down this Monday so come in tonight and tomorrow and give your support.”
After corroborating the text message, it was official: Monterey Live sent out a message to the Facebook community yesterday evening that said its doors will close on Monday, June 1. It's not sure if the venue will continue its live music line-up.
The downtown Monterey nightclub has served as a local music institution, hosting music acts like Vermillion Lies, Avett Brothers, Tornado Rider, The Hackensaw Boys, Mandy Moore, Ostrich Head, Cracker and Better Than Ezra.
The scene at one of Monterey’s most beloved venues for live rock and roll was not completely somber. Familiar faces happily reminisced about all the great performances that had taken place over the past several years.
“Rushad [of Tornado Rider] tore this place up so many times,” said dedicated patron Brandon Peterson, as tears welled up in his eyes. The news was even a shock to Monterey Live employees.
“I just found out this afternoon,” said Ben Herod, Monterey Live’s longtime sound man and saxophone aficionado. The new guy manning the door was also just recently informed. Word spread through texts and cell phones. One person said they heard through Twitter, but the Weekly wasn't able to confirm that the social networking site had any of the news.
The new development came as as shock to patrons and music lovers. A visit to the live music venue Saturday night found things rocking and rolling as always, but the news was spreading throughout the night.
“What's going on?” asked one patron to another.
“I have no idea,” he replied.
A female bartender told another concerned patron to take advantage of the drink specials and “enjoy yourself.” She added, though: “I'm sad.”
In the main room, with the chairs and tables cleared off to the side, the crowd danced and whooped it up like they always have. A young man painted meticulously on a canvas on one of the tables in the main room. A poster on the wall still advertised a June 2 show featuring the Rosewood Thieves.
The band, Still Time, announced after their set, preceding the Dani Page Band: “Keep live music going! We'll figure out the next spot!”
Gary Smith, the current proprietor for the last 17 months, was indignant and, having heard just a few days ago of the building lender's intention to find another tenant, still stunned.
“We put $300,000 into this place,” he said in the office above the party downstairs. “[The venue] was in a worse position than we were told.” The first few months of earnings were absorbed in dealing with unpaid debts and vendors, including $14,000 in gift cards that were substituted as IOU's, he said.
“We [put in] $175,000 of our own money,” he says of his personal investment, which included his kids' college fund. “I've lost a lot of time with my kids to run this place.”
His reasons for the big investments in time, energy and money are deeply personal.
“I really love the music,” he said. “Music kept me through a lot of hard times as a kid” He talked about some of his friends, who had fallen on hard times recently.
“Two of my friends were suicidal. They saw [Rushad Eggleston's] Tornado Rider and were dancing—the band touched them. Everybody here are friends. It's a family.
When asked what it would take for him to keep Monterey Live going, he said, “someone to come in here with $1.4 million dollars.”
The last show was slated for Sunday, May 31, with Jesse DeCarlo. “Then it's done,” said Smith.
Monterey Live may be to Monterey what the Wetlands Preserve and CBGB was to Manhattan: an accessible treasure trove of the best live and undiscovered music acts in town.