Running a small, independent music venue is an arduous labor of love in the best of times. The past five years have seen the Triple Nickel Tavern go through some close calls and layout changes, and the much-loved DIY space The Flux Capacitor had a very short, if spectacular, lifespan. Itâ€™s been a constant refrain over the past months that the COVID-19 pandemic has put such music venues in dire jeopardy, and the pressures of the times have now claimed a favorite local venue, the Zodiac.
The Zodiac closed its doors on March 16 â€” at that point, tentatively for a 30-day shutdown â€” but announced on July 29 that they were closing for good.
â€œWe are sad to announce Zodiac has fallen,â€ the venueâ€™s staff stated via its Facebook page. â€œThank you all for making it the magical place that it is, or was. No one can take any of it away from us, so we cannot be less Zodiac than ever, but we shall not have any more.â€
The announcement was met with a flood of responses from local musicians and music lovers alike, ranging from shock and sadness to expressions of gratitude for performance opportunities and fond memories.
â€œThe Zodiac was a hell of a place, man,â€ says emcee Teqnik G, whom I actually first saw perform at the Zodiac. â€œA strange, twisted, creepy, wonderful, beautiful, unique venue. Iâ€™ll never forget spending a Sunday morning there, drinking the best Bloody Mary Iâ€™d ever had, while eating some of the most amazingly delicious brunch with flavors I canâ€™t even describe that Bobby from The Green Line Grill next door had imagined into existence. While behind a thick curtain wall there is a party of cosmic biker hippies debating Southern politics while being painted by a man in a leather mask. Then I returned at night to be a part of amazing hip-hop culture, wonderful people, and art.
â€œThe Zodiac gave me a stage to perform my music live, and the staff always supported me and were very nice people who became my friends, as well. I could talk about the Zodiac forever. Things that happened there, experiences I hold close to my heart, moments Iâ€™ll never forget, people Iâ€™ll never see again. Iâ€™ll miss that wild, weird fuckinâ€™ place.â€
[pullquote-1-center] â€œI knew I was going to the Zodiac before I ever moved to Colorado Springs,â€ says musician and artist Puppet Moniker. â€œIn 36 years, itâ€™s the first place Iâ€™ve ever felt free to express myself as fully as I was able to. I have wonderful, amazing friends because of the Zodiac. Iâ€™ll keep it in my heart always.â€
For my own part, the Zodiac was a favorite haunt and always felt like a musical â€œhome baseâ€ on either side of the stage. You could almost always count on a diverse crowd of patrons on any given night, but the atmosphere was always warm and inviting. There are countless nights of music on the Zodiac stage Iâ€™ll never forget. Triumphant album release shows from the likes of Joseph Lamar, Vase Vide, Cocordion and Had I Known. Unexpectedly poignant moments, like the regularly scheduled karaoke night that took place soon after the death of Chris Cornell was announced, where many patrons performed Soundgarden and Audioslave songs in tribute. (Not an easy task, of course, but the sincerity â€” and ability â€” was abundant and cathartic.) Genuinely thrilling, unique performances youâ€™d feel honored to be able to experience, like Mobdividualâ€™s guitar atmospheres slowly filling the room as they grew to crashing intensity, the angular noise-rock of Son-G rearranging your consciousness for a few hours, and the anthemic indie-rock of A Bad Night for a Hero erasing the invisible wall between performers and attendees.
Best of all were the nights where disparate strands of the musical community visibly came together with a vibrant purpose. The 2015 memorial tribute to ItsreaLight Love featured 10 straight hours of incredible hip-hop and soul performances, and it felt like no one present even entertained the thought of ducking out. Annual tribute nights to The Beatles and the cinematic worlds of David Lynch (the latter clearly an aesthetic favorite of the Zodiac staff and the regular crowd) gave a wide array of artists the chance to take the stage.
This musical year has been marked by a considerable amount of loss. The loss of beloved musicians, the loss of the opportunity for live performance, losses of venues, and traumatic losses from systemic violence and disease that are raw on a national scale, so raw that they cannot be ignored. Frankly, itâ€™s getting hard to revisit each week. But the words in the Zodiacâ€™s announcement nevertheless ring true. The memories will last, and that gives a community, musical or otherwise, a reason to persevere. The memories bring that spirit closer to us than ever before... and spirits have a tendency to find new ways to surprise you.