Last week I took us on a sad ride through the first three stages of grief for the Afterthought’s closing. We all know grief isn’t complete without the full five stages (sure I know some sources list seven stages of grief, but writing about more than five is above my pay grade), so I’m going to continue my process of grief for you this week with the final two sages (depression and acceptance). A word of caution: it is going to get worse before it gets better. If I were you I would turn away from this blog post right now, go outside and eat an ice cream cone.
I played solo guitar at the Afterthought nearly every Sunday morning for the past two years and I performed there countless wild nights with bands such as That Arkansas Weather, Mellow Dee Groove, Big Piph & Tomorrow Maybe, Sean Fresh, Good Foot, and Rouxster. Both in the restaurant during brunch or in the bar at night, I loved seeing and talking to the regulars who helped make the Afterthought the wonderful community that it was. I also grew so fond of the employees at the Afterthought who (whether they realized it or not) always provided me with acceptance and encouragement. The Afterthought closing is a significant loss for me financially, but a far greater loss in terms of a home, and a family.
Furthermore, I truly came to identify with The Afterthought. I’ve been on tour with bands both in the U.S. and abroad and I consistently play at nearly every major venue here in Little Rock. Yet whenever describing my livelihood to someone new, the first thing I would mention was that I played solo Classical and Jazz guitar every Sunday at the Afterthought. For this consistent gig at a reputable restaurant and bar lent me an air of credibility that helped alleviate the insecurity I have about being a professional musician. Other professions have prestige built in to the name: if you tell someone you are a doctor or a lawyer, you can then rest in a content silence, knowing that the person is somewhat impressed. If you tell someone that you are a musician, that same silence seems to scream “explain yourself!”. I used to fill in that silence with a description of my musical activities at the Afterthought. Now what? I have a blog? I’m recording a song every week that only 20 people listen to? I’m playing at Whitewater tomorrow?! (It is true I am playing at Whitewater tomorrow with Big Piph and Tomorrow Maybe if you readers want to come).
In the Afterthought I’ve lost a job, a community, a place to express myself, and a part of my identity. This is truly depressing for me. Yet it is even more depressing when I think of all of the employees, patrons, and musicians who are experiencing these same feelings of loss.
As much as I loved The Afterthought, I realize that it wasn’t perfect. And as sad as it is that The Afterthought is closing, I realize that it is closing for a reason. I’m not here to tell you everything that lead up to the Afterthought being sold and closed because I truly don’t know; but I do know that there was a big fireplace in the middle of the bar that oddly divided the space, that the piano was perpetually out of tune, and that there was an electrical socket falling out of the wall on to the stage. Some of the Afterthought’s imperfections added to it’s authenticity and charm, but it is possible that the Afterthought was trying to prop up too many quirky flaws to be sustainable. It’s time for a change.
I admit that I insulted the owner of Mylo (and new buyer of the Afterthought) in my last blog post— I was partly trying to be funny (as I do), partly expressing a true criticism, and mostly just being a brat— but I am actually hopeful that he will be successful in reviving and sustaining the Afterthought. Whatever your (or my) opinion is about Mylo Coffee co., it appears to be a thriving business, and it is encouraging that the owner of that business bought the Afterthought. Furthermore, one of my musician friends (who also frequently performed at the Afterthought) told me just this morning that the owner of Mylo asked to meet with him to talk about the new Afterthought. This makes me happy— not every venue owner would think to or be willing to meet with musical artists to discuss plans for the venue. I wish the owners and operators of the new Afterthought all the best, and believe that they will put in the thought and effort necessary to make the Afterthought a thriving venue and community hub once again. By the way good Mylo people, I too am available to lend you my thoughts about the new Afterthought if you care to hear them— I certainly have opinions.
As difficult as it is for me to drive by a now vacant Afterthought, I understand that I now have a great opportunity (and necessity) to explore other musical endeavors. Although I loved that place, my identity, livelihood, and sense of musical community are not dependent on The Afterthought and never were. For I am not a musician at the Afterthought; I am simply a musician, and I can and will play music anywhere. I thank the Afterthought for all it gave me, bid it a fond farewell, and wish it all the best in it’s afterlife.
For those not yet privy to it, this blog is part of a nine-month long project in which I release a blog-post and a new song every week. So below is this week’s Opus if you care to listen, and even further below are links to posts from past weeks. Enjoy!