PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

Save The Bakery Again

Here in PopCult I’ve been writing about the plight of The Bakery since last year, before it had even organized into the all-ages venue that bears that name. Last week The Bakery was shut down by the Fire Marshall for the City of Charleston, and I decided to wait until the dust settled before I weighed in on what happened.

Coincidentally, Bill Lynch offers up a really good summary in Thursday’s Gazette-Mail. It’s a great way to get up to speed, quick.

Despite much of what has been spouted out on social media, nobody involved in shutting down The Bakery did anything wrong. The folks who operate The Bakery, The Charleston Music and Arts Collective, asked the city to inspect their facility to make sure it was up to code, and the Fire Marshall was very helpful and clear in telling them what improvements needed to be made. The timing was less than ideal, happening as The Bakery was poised to host their biggest show ever, with Florida metal band, Trivium, already set up in the hall, but the board of The Bakery knew full well that this could be the result of the inspection.

They asked for the inspection because they want their venue to be safe.

The city offered the use of the Municipal Auditorium, but the band’s management decided that moving the show just a couple of hours before it was scheduled to begin, without the time to tear down their equipment they’d already set up at The Bakery and move the whole production downtown, was not possible.

There was no grand conspiracy to shut down The Bakery because they were hosting a metal band. The timing couldn’t have sucked more, but it was neccessary in order for The Bakery to operate by the rules. The city was not singling out The Bakery. The inspectors were doing their job.

The only misstep in the process was the public statement issued by the Fire Marshall’s office, which was apparently written by someone with little first-hand knowledge of what exactly had happened.

There were actually calls from the board members of The Charleston Music and Arts Collective themselves, asking the Fire Marshall to please inspect the building so that they could be up to code in time for their biggest show. The inspectors were reportedly very respectful and supportive, and are doing what they can to help The Bakery sort out their issues. The only sin of the Fire Marshall’s department was a little miscommunication after the fact.

The cancellation of the Trivium show was a huge financial blow to the promoters, and I hope they can survive this and continue to bring quality shows to town. The hope is that The Bakery can be approved to host a show in time for the GWAR concert scheduled for the middle of next month. If not, at least they’ll have enough advance notice to find an alternate venue.

The board of The Charleston Music and Arts Collective has been commendably transparent in all this, shooting down the crazy conspiracy theories and being open and honest about what happened. They accept responsiblity for not having the building ready, admit that they’ve been running shows in a grey area for most of the last year, and were very frank and honest about their finances and how they had to prioritize paying their rent over finishing the remodeling needed to get The Bakery ready to host shows again.

The Charleston Music and Arts Collective is a start-up non-profit, and as such they face major challenges in funding and recruiting volunteers. At the moment the board feels that if they could raise around twelve-thousand dollars, they could purchase the materials needed to finish the remodeling and bring the venue up to the Fire Marshall’s standards. You can donate to them HERE, or make a monthly donation via Patreon HERE. Donations are tax-deductible.

If you are willing and able to volunteer your time, please contact The Charleston Music and Arts Collective at cmacbakery@gmail.com, or visit their Facebook page for more details. Corporate sponsors can find more information HERE.

The success of The Bakery will be a major boost to Charleston’s music scene. It’s been well over a decade since we’ve had a stable, long-running, all-ages venue in this town. Given Charleston’s live music scene and its bizarre late-night quirks, not having an all-ages venue has played a huge part in the shrinking audiences that live musicians in this town face today.

Generations of kids have grown up in a town where they never pick up the habit of going to hear live music. They don’t get to go out to their own clubs and discover their own bands, and they don’t grow up to be adults who love live music and continue to support it. Our audiences have declined to the point where most of our supporters of live music are service industry workers who don’t get off work until after ten or eleven o’clock at night, and that fact has most shows in local bars starting after eleven PM.

People who have to work the next day simply can’t go out that late. This has been the norm for a long, long time, and it’s at a point where the bars that try to start shows earlier than that quickly discover that they’re paying bands to play to empty venues. You can’t blame the bars for adusting the band’s start times to when they actually have paying customers, and you can’t blame people for staying home until they know the music will start. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle.

People also age out of staying out late to hear live music, and without an all-ages venue to supply younger fans, there’s nobody new coming in to take their place. That’s why we have world-class bands in this town playing to a dozen people some nights.

Charlestonians have demonstrated that they will turn out to support live music at earlier times. Just last month US Floyd nearly sold out The Clay Center with an 8 PM show. Every week (weather permitting) thousands of people come to hear the free music at Live on the Levee, and that starts at 6:30 PM (it’s also usually filled with kids and teens, which is a good sign that there’s demand for an all-ages venue).

The key to making this happen on a regular basis is to have an all-ages venue (or several) where teens can go hear music that belongs to them, and fall in love with the idea of listening to real musicians play live music in a cozy setting. It’s too easy for kids to sit at home and play videogames or watch Netflix. They need a reason to go out.

The Bakery has the potential to be that reason. When they bring the venue up to code it’d be great for them to have regular weekend matinees, where local bands can come in and play for a younger audience, then take a break and set up somewhere else in town for a late-night show. The bands can expand their fanbase and get in some extra playing time. Kids can have a safe place to go, fall in love with music, and pick up a habit that can stick with them for a lifetime.

This won’t happen if The Bakery can’t bring in some money and get some additional volunteers to make the improvements that they need to make to get up to code.

If you can spare a few bucks or a few hours, please reach out and pitch in.