Imagine a city without live music.
It’s an easy vision to conjure these days. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, independent music venues nationwide are struggling. In June, NPR reported “90 percent of independent venue owners, promoters and bookers say that they will have to close permanently within the next few months, if they can’t get an infusion of targeted government funding.”
In Raleigh, The Maywood is another one of those hallowed halls whose future is uncertain. In August, the club’s owner Keith Fairweather launched a GoFundMe campaign to keep the business afloat.
“When The Maywood was able to operate it actually covered the costs of running the venue,” he wrote. “Now that we are forced to stay closed, I have to cover the $3,000 per month (operating expenses) from the money that is keeping my family going.”
So, far the fundraiser has raised approximately $6,500—still a ways from its $18,000 goal.
Other local venues have taken similar approaches. Local 506 in Chapel Hill has brought in more than $13,000 in donations since launching its own GoFundMe in March. Cat’s Cradle launched a benefit compilation featuring a number of acts that have graced its Carrboro stage over the years, from Superchunk to Iron & Wine.
And, like other clubs in the area, The Maywood has been a home to countless local acts through the years. But its role, especially among loud rock and metal bands, extends to the rehearsal rooms and recording studios it leases, as well.
Brenna Leath is one of those musicians for whom The Maywood is something of a second-home. By her own estimation, the singer for local heavyweights Lightning Born and The Hell No, and Crystal Spiders bassist estimates she visits 658 Maywood Avenue at least four times a week.
“If the Maywood closed down, a lot of us wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves,” she told the INDY on her way to practice with The Hell No.
Finding suitable rehearsal space is a challenge in the best of times. In Raleigh, at least two steady rehearsal spaces have shuttered in recent years, making The Maywood one of the busiest in town.
“There’s a million and one things that are a pain in the butt about trying to find a good practice space,” Leath says. “If you want to be a city that prides itself on a diverse music and arts scene, you need to make space, literal space.”
On Friday, October 2—coinciding with Bandcamp’s COVID-inspired monthly fee-waiver day—25 of the bands who call The Maywood home will release a sprawling compilation to benefit the loud-rock hub. Organized by Leath, with art and design by Bedowyn’s Alex Traboulsi, Maywood Mayhem, Vol. 11 nods to the venue’s past life as Volume 11 Tavern, as well as Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4, and offers perhaps the best survey of local heavy rock you’re likely to find.
The compilation covers a significant spectrum, from Mega-Colossus’ true heavy metal bombast to Mo’ynoq’s stirring black metal; from Leachate’s vicious grindcore to Witchtit’s sprawling doom. Thirteen of the 25 tracks are previously unreleased. Several are debut recordings.
Pre-orders for the album and Traboulsi-designed T-shirts launch today, ahead of the Oct. 2 release. All proceeds will go directly to The Maywood.
In coordination with individual efforts, like Maywood Mayhem, a significant lobbying push from the recently formed National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) for Federal aid to save empty stages offers some glimmers of hope.
At the very least, NIVA’s proposed Save Our Stages Act has garnered national attention and petitioners from Neil Young to Billie Eilish. But, barring an unexpected Federal action, local venues are likely to stay closed for however long the pandemic spreads.
Dystopian visions of silent cities are all too easy to imagine.
“A lot of us feel kind of powerless right now,” Leath says. But, “this is something we can do to show that we care. This is something artists can do. This is something fans can do.”
Comment on this story at email@example.com.
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.