Is not: West Main music hall closes

news-isvenueclosesThe iS music venue lasted barely a year before shutting its doors Monday morning.

For the little venue that could, the iS music lounge announced Monday that it iS no longer in business.

When managers Stew Hartman-Mart and Chris Dunbar announced in September 2008 the re-opening of the Starr Hill music venue as the Si restuarant/iS music lounge double whammy, the regional music scene rejoiced for the re-addition of the venerable venue back into the live music scene. But perhaps those who claim Starr Hill was cursed are right–- as Sunday night, September 28, the Twitter feed of the venue's booker, Jeyon Falsini, announced that Is was closing.

According to Falsini, Sunday night's show featuring Tennessee-based punk rockers Black Diamond Heavies and local hard-rockers Corsair and Channel 43 was the venue's final performance. The abrupt announcement left many local industry buffs scratching their heads, as the venue still has a full season booked through the end of November. Although there is no word on where these shows will relocate, the Friday, September 25 opening of The Southern, might be available to pick up the slack.

No announcements have been made as to the fate of Si, the tapas restaurant housed beneath iS (the Charlottesville version of Si Tapas in Richmond, owned by Mo Roman). According to building owner Jessie T. Hook, the owners have yet to inform her of any closings, yet never seemed to have any problems paying rent– a plight that plagued other venue owners in the past.

"I've heard rumors, but the owner of the restaurant has not told me anything," she says of the closed doors. "He's been a little slow about paying [rent], but he had always paid."

Financial troubles with show bookings might have contributed to the venue's demise, according to former iS barback Robert Molster. While Falsini brought in larger and more popular acts to the space, the resulting higher price demanded by artists' agents could have triggered a domino effect that led to higher ticket prices. Calls to Falsini and owner Dunbar were unreturned.

"He was booking bands that needed large guarantees at the door," Molster explains. "To compensate, he had to raise ticket prices, which might have led to people not coming. A lot of the time, we lost money on the shows."

Though not returning Hook emails, Falsini did apparently post something on a blog with a headline that may be his side of the story: "Is venue pulls the rug out of us."

The mystery of iS' sudden closing and with the 16 months-ago closing of Satellite Ballroom may leave those in the local music scene to wonder: can there ever be live music on Main Street again?

–post updated Tuesday, September 29 at 1:32pm.

Read more on: closingstarr hill


I have no inside info here, but I question whether booking bands that supposedly demand large guarantees was really the issue. If it was a booking issue, I think it probably had more to do with the fact that the bands tended toward the third-rate jam band than anything else. Look at the schedule, these are not high dollar acts.
Too bad. Nice space.

Outback Lodge is still open & having events with the best sound system in town.

the charlottesville music scene is sort of sad. the vibe of most of the venues in charlottesville isn't that great either. we don't have anything like the 9:30 club or alley katz. we need a decent, straight-up, no frills rock club without all the pretentious attitude and prices. i miss the old trax nightclub and wish we could get back some soul in this town. i'm from l.a. and the prices of drinks, food and admission is actually higher in most of the clubs/bars here. why is that?

The poetry event on Wednesday has been moved to Rapture, and the Perpetual Groove/Savoy show on Thursday has been canned altogether.

Could be just another victim of Cvilles over saturated music scene. There are so many musicians here and so many venues, most local artists play for free or a meager percentage of the bar. There's not enough people here willing to pay for music to support a big scene. Quite frankly I doubt this community will be able to keep both the Southern and the Jeff open for long. The higher food/drink/ticket prices here than in other markets are a direct result of the higher rent the clubs are paying, because this is Charlottesville and it is pretentious. There's a high price tag to being one of the best places to live in the country.

stew hartman-mart worked at iS for 2 weeks, far from an owner. chris is the general manager. thanks to jeyon and staff for doing everything they could to hold it together.

Who cares what music is around. C-Ville = DMB. There is no reason to ever listen to anything else. Now..time to go puff a few dozen doobs just like my hero (and face of this village).

Too bad there is no venue to pick up the canceled Perpetual Groove U2 after party show. It would have been a good late night show. In addition, I'll be surprised if the Jefferson ever opens. It was supposed to open 6-7 months ago. Charlottesville's music scene is definitely on the decline.

Charlottesville's music scene is most definitely NOT on the decline!

The Jefferson will be open before you know it and The Southern already has a great calendar through the fall.

In addition, there's always great music going on at the Tea Bazaar and Miller's and Felini's and the Box, etc.

Between the restaurants/bars doing music, The Southern, The Paramount, The Jefferson, and The Pavilion, Charlottesville is on the verge of having an amazingly vibrant music scene.

As for sound systems, The Southern already has a killer rig going and it's only going to get better and just wait until you hear what's going into The Jefferson!

On the decline? Ha! Comparative Anatomy is definitely proof that something is going on under the surface! Those guys are sick!

Word seems to be that Si closed as well, so this was probably going to happen whether the Jeff or the Southern were opening or not.

I hope when the Jefferson opens it fills the gap that Trax left many years ago. I hear they're going to get acts akin to what the National is pulling down in Richmond. That would make me very happy. The National is a great place. A bit on the $$$ side, but now that I'm not a poor college kid anymore, I don't mind paying a few extra bucks to see good bands locally at a nice venue. Nothing'll ever beat Trax tho.

With the Southern just opening and the Jefferson on the way, this was bound to happen.

I agree with the post above. I really hope the Jeff makes this a music town again.

The reporting here is a little shaky. Check the Hook's own archives. The person to follow here is Mo Roman, who has restaurants in Richmond and elsewhere.

quoting a barback who knows absolutely nothing about booking bands or putting on shows. awesome reporting.

please note like Alley Katz. they rip off bands.
we need more venues that dont TRY be something, but just BE.
thats why outback lodge is still open.

the southern and the jefferson (when it finally opens) will be fine; provided they book appropriate acts. and outback lodge most definitely does not have the best sound system in town.

iS came and went and I never went there.