Jason Jones, singer and guitarist for North Central Florida punk band theBitters, is thrilled to be back on stage after months of not being able to perform live in front of an audience.
âThis is what we are hungry for,â he said.
The group will be one of the first artists to return to High Dive, a concert and events venue that has been part of the downtown Gainesville scene since the 1980s. The High Dive will be the first concert venue to be performed. reopen for indoor shows.
Another local venue, Heartwood Soundstage, 619 S. Main St., just hosted its first outdoor concert in four months and will continue to host outdoor events or live indoor performances with no audiences in the future. predictable, said owner-manager Dave Melosh.
In its decades of history, the High Dive, 210 SW Second Ave., has never experienced an extended shutdown like in recent months due to COVID-19, Director Pat Lavery said.
The High Dive will resume hosting live performances on July 3, with safety rules in place, such as a 50% capacity – around 100 guests in total, a mask requirement for guests, and temperature controls for staff and artists.
Although the doors to the High Dive have been closed since March, Lavery has worked hard the entire time to try to make ends meet at the site.
The High Dive created a GoFoundMe fundraiser, pre-sold tickets to their annual summer show series, and even teamed up with their neighbor, Five Star Pizza, to deliver pizza and liquor packages to the community.
It also hosted High Dive Live From Home – a live stream of music from different artists. Another live-broadcast benefit concert, featuring theBitters, as well as flipturn, Causa and Cannibal Kids, is scheduled for June 26. The concert will be visible on Facebook Live, Instagram and YouTube.
Lavery said reopening the physical High Dive space is just the next step in what will continue to be an uphill battle for the live music industry.
âWe rely a lot on artists on national tours,â he said.
While the venue also hosts comedy shows, Lavery said musical performers typically performed three to seven evenings of shows per week.
Many bands that were originally scheduled to perform at High Dive this year have canceled or completely rescheduled their tours due to the unpredictability of COVID-19.
âSome of those tours are now scheduled for 2021 or even 2022,â Lavery said. âIn the long run, without tours, we’re toast.â
Paying basic High Dive expenses like rent and utilities costs thousands of dollars every month, he said. And now the company is adding additional costs to pay staff and performers as well as to buy alcohol to sell during shows.
âWe may lose more money on the open than on the close,â Lavery said. âWe hope to break even within the next two months. “
He said maintaining the site was important to preserve some of Gainesville’s cultural significance. The building housed a nightclub and other dance clubs before becoming the Covered Dish in 1992, then later Common Grounds, Double Down Live and finally High Dive.
Artists like the Dave Matthews Band, Green Day, and Kenny Chesney have plugged their amps inside the space.
âThis building has been a historic downtown anchor since the 1980s, and we’re not going to drop it without a fight,â Lavery said.
Jones, of theBitters, said the group tries to play High Dive at least once a month. He said the band had probably performed there at least 30 times, dating back to the Covered Dish days.
He said returning in July would likely be a very different experience from past performances, where the crowd is packed and fans wave five or hug the performers.
âThere will be no moshing, no high five or hugs,â he said. âPeople will try to distance themselves from each other. “
Singers can’t easily wear a mask when performing, but Jones said he will bring his own microphone and other band gear like guitars, drum kits and sticks. In the age of COVID-19, not sharing is caring.
Singer-songwriter Thomas Allain, who will be giving an acoustic performance at the High Dive reopening party, said he will bring his own microphone.
He said he was intimidated to take the stage back to a large crowd after some time away from performing, but happy to be one of the artists helping reopen a piece of local culture.
âIt will be great if we are a part of sustaining live music in Gainesville,â he said.