SHEENA BARNETT: Venue more than just a building

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

I can’t even tell you what color the walls were, that’s how dark it usually was in there. And they always felt kind of sticky.
For the longest time, I was afraid to use the bathroom there. Once I finally did, I learned it wasn’t so bad – until I saw “I knew you’d come back” scrawled on the wall in red letters.
But this weird little place was home, at least a few times a year.
It’s the Hi-Tone Cafe in Memphis, and this month, this wonderful little club closes its doors forever.
Problems with the building, a changing market and the desire to create a new booking business so he can book bands in various venues across the city are the owner’s reasons for closing down the Hi-Tone.
And those are understandable reasons. And I’m excited he’ll continue to bring more shows to the area.
But going to a concert isn’t just about going to hear a band. It’s about hearing a band in a place that feels just right: It fits in with the type of artist that’s playing and both the audience and performer feel comfortable. At home.
Over the last few years I’ve seen a ton of really terrific bands and artists at the Hi-Tone: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Band of Horses, Justin Townes Earle, The Lumineers, Star & Micey.
And I’m sure these acts will be booked at other venues in the area – in fact, I’ve seen Jason Isbell and The Lumineers at other clubs, like The Lyric Oxford – but there’s something about seeing a show at the Hi-Tone.
Any good club or shop where geeks gather to geek out becomes hallowed ground.
Remember that band’s show at that club, where they played that really awesome rare B-side they swore they’d never play live?
Run down to the store, that comic book writer killed off that character we thought was immortal!
These places are a part of what we love, so we love them; they become a part of our experiences, our memories, ourselves.
These days you can do just about anything online – buy an album, download a comic book issue or watch your favorite band perform live – but there’s nothing like being there in person, to flip through pages and read liner notes and hear the band’s bad between-songs banter.
We have a terrible need for more venues like the Hi-Tone here in Northeast Mississippi.
We have great ones already, but we can always use more.
After all, there are plenty of great clubs, but there was only one Hi-Tone.
So long to the Hi-Tone and to the awesome roster of music that bled through the walls.
We’ll always have the memories.
Sheena Barnett covers entertainment news for the Daily Journal and writes columns for the Opinion page. Contact her at or call (662) 678-1580.

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