October 18, 2007

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Saying farewell to the Uptown
Musicians mourn the loss of another live music venue
By Erica Febré efebre@hippopress.com

The city of Manchester will say farewell to one of its nightlife landmarks with the closing of the Uptown Tavern on Elm Street.

Scheduled to close its doors for business on October 31 at midnight, Uptown has been a live and original music venue for almost 15 years, first opening its doors in 1993. It could be argued that Uptown is one of the longest lasting venues in the city of Manchester.

When the music stops
“It was different back when we first opened. We had a lot of different things going on, live music, deejays and karaoke seven nights a week,” said Roy Arsenault, owner of Uptown Tavern. “There’s just been a steady decline in the past few years. Just in the whole music industry in general, even the big artists are watching record sales drop.”

Arsenault owns the Uptown with partner David Somers. As Arsenault explained, their reasons for closing have to do with money. The building, which the partners don’t own but rent, doesn’t meet safety code to be a certified entertainment venue. Getting the building up to code could cost somewhere close to $100,000, Arsenault said, which is a cost too high to consider. Arsenault and Somers also own Raxx Billiard located a few blocks down the street from Uptown.

“It’s just not an economically viable business to be in right now,” Arsenault said.

Expressing their sadness about having to close the venue, Arsenault said he will always remember the good times at Uptown and hopes that others will remember them as well. Somers suggests that patrons who regularly attended Uptown throughout the years should make it out for one of the final nights before the landmark is gone forever.

Saying farewell
Many different bands, from metal acts to hip-hop groups, got their first gig at the Uptown. For many, it was also the only place in Manchester where their music was accepted, regardless of genre or style.

“The Uptown Tavern will be missed. The venue has done a lot for local music over the years and is one of the last venues in the area to actually pay bands for performing without charging a cover to get in,” said Hammer from RageRockRadio.com. “They really, truly supported the original music scene.”

RageRockRadio.com used the Uptown as a venue when bringing bands to the region. One of the last shows at Uptown, on Friday, Oct. 19, will be a benefit show for RageRockRadio.com, a Manchester-based Internet radio broadcaster.

“I’ve been trying not to think about the Uptown closing. Losing the Uptown as a venue is truly a tragedy,” said Amy Hall with Silly Girl Promotions. “It is one of the few places in the city that welcomes artists from all different genres of music. I feel like Manchester is really losing something that helped make it great...some of it’s spice. Losing the Uptown feels like losing my home base.”

Silly Girl Promotions is another local booking and promotions company that often brought bands to the Uptown. Silly Girl Promotions is hosting the RageRockRadio.com benefit as their last gig at the Uptown.

Change of Season is a local metal band that plays all original music and for them, Uptown was a place they’d played for years and they consider it their “favorite dive bar.” While the Uptown might not have been know for its physical appearance, the members of Change of Season still consider it a “hidden gem” to the community.

“I would say that the loss of the Uptown is a tremendous loss to very heart of the Manchester music scene,” said Matt Connarton with Impact Player Music, who handled all the booking duties for Uptown throughout the last few years. “I think that, to some degree, it’s been taken for granted, and people won’t realize how much they’re going to miss it until it’s actually gone. For myself, my business, the great people who work there, and a lot of bands, it’s been home.”

Many of these bands and booking agencies quoted will have to find a new place to bring their bands. For most of them, Manchester is no longer an option, as there aren’t many supporting venues of original music left in the city, let alone supporters of the hardcore metal scene.

No new Uptown
While some have speculated that Arsenault and Somers would be moving Uptown to vacant space available in the Raxx building, nothing has been officially confirmed.

“We may do something at Raxx’s but nothing is scheduled yet,” Arsenault said.

Although, Arsenault’s partner, Somers, said he could definitely see some form of nightlife entertainment, either live DJ’s or bands, taking place at some point in the near future at Raxx.

Even if the partners decide to bring the music back, Arsenault said it will not be called the Uptown.


The last days of the Uptown
This weekend
•When: Friday, Oct. 19, at 9 p.m.
Who: RageRockRadio.com benefit show featuring Habitual Offendaz, Devil’s Champion, StoneWall, Boring Kind of Guy
• When: Saturday, Oct. 20, at 9 p.m.
Who: A Simple Complex, Fear of Flying, Vegas Temper, Broken Hell

The final weekend at Uptown is dedicated to bands who played Uptown back when it first opened
• When: Friday, Oct. 26, at 9 p.m.
Who: Sett
• When: Saturday, Oct. 27, at 9 p.m.
Who: Sonic Structure

Final night
• When: Wednesday, Oct. 31, according to Arsenault.