Late last week, a blog entry posted on theElement's Web site announced that the church-based music venue would be shutting down.
"The Element Venue of Christ Church has officially been closed indefinetly [sic]," read the online post from Josh Martin, the venue's manager. "... and in other news We Want A Forest, The Chain Gang, Breathe Carolina, Write This Down, The Greenery, and Shipshape and Bristol Fashion played the last show downstairs in the basement of Christ Church for what appears to be a very long time."
The news not a hoax, even though the message is no longer easily found on the venue's MySpace page (myspace.com/theelementmusic) came as a bit of a surprise. Since the first show was played in the church's basement on Sept. 9, 2006, when local acts Holiday Run and Granny Sings Gospel took the stage to a small crowd, shows featuring national touring acts like Moros Eros, Umbrella and Mayday Parade helped theElement draw crowds of more than 200 people And more nationally touring concerts, including one upcoming date that was to feature acts from the Tooth and Nail record label, were supposedly on the way.
So what happened? Why is the just one-and-a-half-year-old venue closing? And why now?
Well, for one, Martin says he's looking to return to school in Michigan so that he can learn to better run theElement. He also says he hopes to continue expanding the venue's reach, and one form of expansion is already underway: Members of regular theElement performers Matt & Isom and We Want A Forest have started similar projects in Massachusetts and Michigan, respectively.
Beyond that, though, Martin's reluctant to get into many details about the venue's closing or its future, both in his MySpace note and in person. Instead, he actively steers all conversation in another direction, asking that people remember theElement for the youth-group ideals upon which it was based.
"[theElement] is a family," Martin says. "It's a movement and it's a community. It's actually what's happening, not where it's happening."
Specifically, Martin is quite proud of the recent Christmas party the venue hosted. Although no bands were slated to play that evening, nearly 100 people visited theElement to spend time with friends and eat a home-cooked meal. To the attendees' surprise, though, Matt & Isom and The Chain Gang of 1974, whose members were also in attendance, took to the stage for an impromptu concert.
Martin says such support and memories could mean that theElement does indeed continue to exist in some form. Though it will no longer exist as a music venue in Christ Church, it's possible, he says, that future shows could be booked and held in local VFW buildings.
"This is something that had to happen in order for [theElement] to grow," Martin says. "The kids will keep it going with or without me. I'll be overseeing, but we have some great people who will be making it happen."
A number of the shows theElement's MySpace page still lists as happening in the near future will now become house shows at an as-yet undisclosed location. Martin plans on updating the Web site with information as it comes.
"theElement isn't dead ..." Martin wrote in his farewell post, "or closed. As some of you had said via comment ... you can't close a family."