Rumor Has It
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Along with crazy pandemic dreams—like the one I had recently about being attacked by a giant, angry hermit crab—the one thing we all have in common right now is worry.
I live and die by to-do lists, and while my planner is getting much less use than normal these days, I feel like I have a checklist of worry and I tick off each item without fail every day.
One of those items: How long can our venues remain closed in the absence of government relief and still expect to survive?
An unwelcome answer came, in part, Sat., May 23 when the Firefly Lounge announced its permanent closure on Facebook, attributing the decision directly to the prolonged COVID-19 shutdown. Simply put, there wasn’t enough gas in the tank and they ran out of road.
The loss of one of Bellingham’s precious stages is one that will reverberate throughout our music scene. But to me, the loss of owners Erin Gill and Justin Smith as two of the voices of our music community is the one that will be more keenly felt.
Justin came to us via the Green Frog, which was what the Firefly was before it became the Firefly. He was the guy who showed up in our inboxes every week as the author of the venue’s enthusiastic, highly personable newsletter that he always concluded with “be excellent to each other.” As he said in his final newsletter, he was the first and last customer at the Green Frog before signing on to the Firefly, and his love and institutional knowledge of that stage run deep.
Erin was a more recent transplant. We got her from Olympia, but about five seconds after she showed up, it seemed she’d always been here, had always been part of our tight-knit music scene. She was the voice and face of the Firefly, and a more fun-loving, good-natured, big-hearted steward of that space you’d never find anywhere.
They made a good team in terms of running their venue, but even better, their partnership benefitted the community as a whole. The lifespan of the Firefly was marked by vibrant energy, radical inclusiveness and a seemingly endless supply of goodwill toward the public. Their stage was open to one and all, and they used it to host music from Americana to metal, as well as drag and burlesque shows, open mics and karaoke, and the fundraisers and benefits that shore up this town. They gave the warmest of welcomes to everyone who came through their doors—while exhibiting zero tolerance for people who were hurtful or exclusionary.
If doing a good thing the right way ensured success, the Firefly Lounge would be with us forever. It goes without saying that it will be missed.