A couple of months back, guest columnist Brad Willis and I wrote a couple of pieces about Greenville’s music scene. They were largely perceived as opposing pieces, but I did agree with one of Brad’s main points: That a mid-sized, 500-or so-capacity venue would be great for Greenville in the wake of The Handlebar’s closing in 2014.
However, I also noted that there was a suitable venue 20 minutes down the road in Greer. It’s called The Spinning Jenny.
My point was simply that rather than driving to Asheville for shows, we as Greenville music fans could simply drive to Greer and support a closer music venue.
The response I seemed to receive most in the comments section for the article and on social media was, “Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but we still need a mid-sized venue in Greenville. One about the size of The Handlebar.”
So when my colleague Ariel Turner wrote about The Firmament, a new 450-500 capacity venue off of Woodruff Road opening in the fall, in the Upstate Business Journal, I thought to myself, “Here it is. Finally, Greenville music fans are getting what they’ve clamored for: A mid-sized venue that, according to its owner, Andrew Peek, would be dedicated to bringing in artists from all genres. There would even be plenty of parking, an issue The Handlebar initially had problems with when they opened on Stone Ave. in 2001.”
“Surely,” I thought, “this will satisfy the hundreds, perhaps thousands of music lovers who united under the hashtag #gvlmusic or went to TedX meetings to discuss whether or not Greenville even had a music scene or generally expressed their frustration at not being able to see the artists they wanted to see because they didn’t roll through town.”
I should’ve known better.
Here’s just a sampling of the comments that appeared underneath the article on Facebook, and on the Upstate Business Journal website:
“Can somebody please find a location OTHER than Woodruff Road to build???? the traffic is a nightmare!”
“Why Woodruff Rd ? Ugh.”
“Not an ideal place for a music venue.”
But wait, there’s more. Some readers seemed to be reeling from the fact that Andrew Peek’s promotional experience largely involved – gasp – electronic dance music shows. They voiced concerns about the lineup of artists despite the fact that no lineup has been announced. They worried The Firmament would be nothing but a 24/7 rave factory, even if that wasn’t actually, y’know, the truth.
Were there people who expressed excitement and support for this new venue? Absolutely. Are there ridiculous traffic and overcrowding issues on Woodruff Road? Of course there are.
But I feel compelled to ask a couple of questions of Greenville’s music fans, starting with this one: So what?
So what if there are traffic jams on Woodruff Road? So what if the venue is not downtown? So what if there might be some EDM artists at The Firmament?
If you’re willing to put yourself through Woodruff Road traffic for food or shoes or a movie or a palette of bottled water from Costco, why wouldn’t you be willing to do it for the music that you’ve repeatedly insisted that you crave?
I’m no zoning expert, but I know of at least one large-scale music venue has attempted to move to Greenville but gave up because of the various laws regarding noise and operating hours near the residential areas of downtown.
And my guess would be that some of those same people living in those apartments above Main or Washington or Coffee streets, the ones who don’t like hearing drums after 10 p.m., are the ones clamoring for a bigger, better music venue in Greenville.
Truth be told, there’s probably no way a 500-seat venue right smack in the heart of Main St. is going to happen, at least in the near future.
What I’m saying is this: We got a 500-seat venue coming. It should be here in the fall. It’s on Market Point Drive near Woodruff Road. P.S. You actually don’t even have to take Woodruff to get there.
So why not give it a chance?
Why not wait just a bit to pronounce it a nightmare or a failure or an inconvenience?
Why not take a breath and just see what happens?
Or, heaven forbid, why not be optimistic that, though it may not be in your ideal spot with your ideal bands, we’ve finally gotten a new place to see live music, and it’s just the size you wanted?
We’ve got a new music venue coming. It’s in Greenville. And rather than waiting for things to be perfect, why don’t we just allow for the possibility that our music scene is about to get better?