This, of course, comes as a surprise to exactly no one — not even Scott Buttrey, who had been booking at the venue since 2005. He explained to the Scene via Facebook that “since 2009, it has gotten harder and harder to get fans out to the shows.”
Well, yeah. Ever since Rocketown drank their milkshake in 2004, The Muse's concert calendar has been in shambles. For every potentially great gig secured at the venue, there was a sad, muddled slurry of Juggalos, the dregs of the local rap scene and acne-riddled Operation Ivy covers. It became a place that local bands dreaded, knowing better than to chance electrocution, double (or even triple) bookings, stolen gear, trigger-happy tow yards, non-payment and just about every other disaster conceivable.
But that wasn't always the case.
For better or for worse, in high school, The Muse was a crucible for my adolescence. Between 2002 and 2005, I was there almost weekly. It was the site of my very first local show, a bill featuring Silent Friction, My Epiphany, Submethod and a little-loved high school ska band called Breakdown (they had a song about the X-Men and I was their biggest fan). Before I ever went to Grimey's, I bought Ted Leo and the Pharmacists CDs from the weird little record shop operated by Stacey Fleeman in the back room that always smelled suspiciously of incense.
If nothing else, The Muse was unpredictable. Wildly so. These are all things I witnessed or heard second-hand when I queried the Internet:
* Notorious prankster punks Moral Decay lit a broken laptop, soaked in rubbing alcohol, on fire and we all had to evacuate, fleeing the poisonous fumes.
* A skinhead broke a fire extinguisher loose at a street-punk show, spraying attendees before being kicked out. The place turned into an enormous slip-n-slide.
* I was tapped by strangers to judge a three-legged race (because I was impartial, I guess) before Against Me! in 2003.
* During a Foxy Shazam gig, the band's set was cut short by a drunk audience member pissing on the stage.
* Upon discovering that they had triple-booked a show, the venue tried to rectify the situation by having all 12 bands play full sets. While one set up onstage, the other played on the floor. It was reportedly a disaster.
* Remember when laptops stolen from the Davidson County Election Commission turned up at The Muse a few years back? Yeah. That happened too.
So, The Muse took chances. A lot of them. Probably too many of them. But that's why it worked for what it was. It was the kind of grimy trial by fire that young bands needed. Being there felt dangerous (and perhaps was dangerous), which also felt empowering. The fact that, at 15, I was able to convince my parents to let me hang out at a place backed up to a porn store felt like a triumph in and of itself. And that's just from the perspective of a non-musician. For young bands like The Sex (Jake and Jamin Orrall's pre-JEFF punk freak-out) and Save Macaulay the Band (Caitlin Rose's pre-country anti-folk precociousness), The Muse was an open opportunity that might not be afforded to them in other, slightly higher-class venues (RIP Indienet).
I hate to say it, but even though I haven't been there since a supremely depressing WRVU benefit, I'm gonna miss the stupid place. Not for what it became, but for what it was: an almost comically unpredictable proving ground for young bands. It was like pages of The Perks of Being a Wallflower come to life, in the best and worst ways possible. I don't think I would be the person I am now without The Muse, and that is a horrifying statement to realize the truth in.
Vaya con Dios, you horrible, beautiful monstrosity. I will remember you fondly. Also, not fondly. I just wish there was something to take your place on the chaotic-good spectrum of local venues.