Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Soapbox To Close In July

Eastern North Carolina has always been the red-headed stepchild of the state. While there's gems hidden within the confines of this great area, there's never been many quality outlets for entertainment. However, venues like The Soapbox are exceptions to this generalization. Even as a New Bern native this venue, nearly two hours away from home, shaped my views of this state's music scene. Sadly, The Soapbox shared today that the beloved venue will be closing on July 28.

Brent Watkins, proprietor of the venue, released a statement today outlining the venue's closing. Watkins states that "without a significant injection of outside capital for the purchase and much needed facilities improvements, The Soapbox cannot, going forward, continue to operate within its original confines." Unfortunately this is a problem that we've seen far too often in this part of the state, but thankfully the passion for live music lives on within the area. While beloved venues like the Spazzatorium and Broad Street Music have long closed their doors, they've found new outlets through which to spread creativity and to create a community.

The Soapbox was home to my first metal show, the one where I saw Between The Buried and Me command the crowd like puppets, violently thrashing to the blistering sounds of what can only be described as the most beautifully brutal show I've ever taken part in. My hips were bruised from being shoved into the stage so hard. The Soapbox was where I saw my first Manchester Orchestra show, where I shed tears at the immensity of "Where Have You Been". It's where I met one of my teenage idols Kevin Devine and humanized the man I'd revered for so long. But most importantly, The Soapbox is where I realized that Eastern North Carolina can still provide that creative outlet for kids just as upset with the state of things around them as those in the Triangle.

After moving to Raleigh it's easy to get caught up in the bustle of the Triangle, you don't have to go too far to see a show. Hell I find myself not wanting to go see a band in Chapel Hill because it's 30 minutes away. That's not a luxury you find frequently out east. Laborious drives define the life of an Eastern NC music fan, but we do it because we love it. So when a venue like The Soapbox provides as many fantastic shows as they do, one can't help but feel immense sadness for their closing of doors. This weekend alone the venue will house The Mountain Goats and Gross Ghost, two of the finest acts North Carolina has to offer.

Wilmington acts could cut their teeth at this 350 capacity venue, they could open for nationally touring acts and share their songs with droves of fans who may have never even known they exist. That's one of the reasons that this club will be so dearly missed, because people have grown in this venue. While The Soapbox's doors may be closing next month, the impact that it has had on this region will never fade. In the past few years Wilmington has developed a blossoming scene, bands from Wilmington are breaking into new territories and creating a name for themselves in ways that simply wouldn't be possible if it weren't for The Soapbox. But Wilmington will be alright without this venue, mostly because it's done its job. The Soapbox has opened new doors for eastern North Carolinians, new venues have arisen and more will surely come. Maybe Watkins will return to the scene with something even more glorious. Who knows?

The most important thing is to remember how important local music venues are. Thank your venue owners for putting their financial stability on the line so that they can share the gift of live music with the masses. Places like The Soapbox are far too frequently taken for granted, so cherish these places. If you're anything like me these places become your mecca, your home away from home. Build these connections and hold them dear to your heart because you never know when it's going to end. Lastly, go out and support your favorite local music venue, because without people like you there would be no scene.

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