Is not: West Main music hall closes
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.