VOL. 128 | NO. 74 | Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The Comeback Club
By Andy Meek
The Hi-Tone is a few weeks away from coming back. At the end of March, owner Jonathan Kiersky signed a lease for new space in the Crosstown neighborhood that will resurrect the recently shuttered music venue into a facility that’s essentially two connected spaces.
Jonathan Kiersky works on the back bar for the new Hi-Tone, which is moving to 414 N. Cleveland St. The new club will feature two separate stages and a lounge area, and is expected to open in May.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
The new club is set to reopen in early May at 412-414 N. Cleveland St. The Hi-Tone now will include a smaller performance space, a second space that’s comparable to the size of the original Hi-Tone, plus a lounge in front of 412 N. Cleveland St.
Altogether, the new venue measures about 4,500 square feet. The old Hi-Tone had, according to Kiersky, lots of nooks and crannies that took away from its overall size, which was about 4,200 square feet.
Kiersky, who has been the owner for six years, rattled off a list of improvements brought on by the relocation. He said the new Hi-Tone will have about five times the amount of air conditioning as the old venue, about four times the amount of restroom facilities and 350 parking spaces.
The club closed because its lease was up, and Kiersky decided not to renew. Among the reasons he cited were issues with the building.
Disappointment among many local music fans – especially those who took to social media – was palpable. The Hi-Tone had a community of music fans around it, just like other shuttered local venues like the Antenna and the Map Room did in their day.
Kiersky’s idea at first had been to simply put on shows elsewhere in town after the announcement of the closure a few months ago and after the final concert in February that signaled the end of the music at the venerable nightclub.
“Then I came to Crosstown,” said Kiersky, as he was flecked with dust from construction amid the sounds of renovation that buzzed and banged around him. “I didn’t realize at first how great of a community had sprung up around here.
“I was shown these buildings and right away knew it would be a perfect fit. I was really impressed. I’m looking forward to this being part of a community around us that doesn’t have to get in a car to get here. Stuff like that matters.”
“I was showed these buildings and right away knew it would be a perfect fit.”
The smaller of the two connected spaces will have a capacity of up to about 100. The bigger room likely will host the majority of bands that come through.
Kiersky has brought on some help from Goner Records to assist him in co-booking the spaces. The Devil Makes Three is scheduled to play the Hi-Tone in early May, which Kiersky said likely will serve as a kind of opening bash for the new venue.
The club’s new home is a neighborhood that’s seeing a groundswell of activity, driven by the adaptive reuse of the 1.5 million-square-foot, circa-1927 Sears Crosstown building. Leased space already has been committed to tenants including the Church Health Center, ALSAC/St. Jude – the fundraising arm of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.
The project is about more than rehabbing a building, though. It’s part of a $175 million effort that will turn the building into a hive of activity involving the arts, education and more, which in turn is intended to serve as a catalyst to spur a revitalization of the rest of the Crosstown neighborhood.
That possibility is what Kiersky said he saw after visiting the area, and it’s what led him to reach a deal.
“The Hi-Tone was always one of my favorite venues,” Kiersky said, referring to the time before he got the chance to own it. “And, as the reaction (to the closing) showed, there’s a decent-sized segment of people who are into the kinds of stuff that we do. We’re also on national touring routes, so it’s important for the Memphis music scene.
“After the closing, we thought at first we’d just throw shows. We didn’t think we’d ever get another venue. But thankfully it’s worked out.”