The Muse has been main spot for young bands
Main Street venue announces it will close in September
It may have been relatively short-lived, but the impact The Muse on Main leaves will be long-lasting.
Opening on Oct. 25, 2019, with the Scratch N’ Sniffs out of Pittsburgh, Rehab Party, Venus in Jeans, and Nifty Skullet, the venue at 1332 W. Main St. has been vital to young bands getting their starts.
“That’s why we opened the place,” co-owner John Kaszowski said of his and Dylan Roldan’s motivations. “We’re not in this business to make money, we’re in it for the scene.
“We just try to give everyone a chance, where a lot of other venues might not.”
Because of the opportunities the venue has created for musicians, the Muse’s announcement Sunday, July 3, that the building had been sold and venue would close its doors in September led to an outpouring of support.
“I was expecting some people to be upset, which is understandable, but it’s mostly been people being bummed out,” Kaszowski said.
Bummed seems to be a fitting word.
“We love the Muse,” Larry Stahl of Neon Straightjackets said. “Dylan and John have always been absolutely amazing, and they’ve given us so much. It’s the second place we played a show, and we’re just upset to see it go. We met so many bands there and met so many friends.”
The final event will be a Gathering church service Sunday, Sept. 18, while the farewell weekend begins Friday, Sept. 16, with a lineup of disappear., Atomic Collapse, Mutilation Barbecue, and Molech. The final show at the Muse will include Pharohound, Filth Spewer, Anti-Clutch, and Hopewell Fault on Sept. 17.
Creating own identity
In an effort to focus on the music, Kaszowski and Roldan decided to livestream shows and post recorded performances online, while also making the venue alcohol-free, surprising many.
“From Day One, everyone was saying you had to have alcohol, but I didn’t want alcohol at an all-ages venue,” Kaszowski said. “I think it’s responsible not to have alcohol at an all-ages venue. That makes it more about the bands than just getting drunk.”
Instead of alcohol, the Muse has a wide range of soda, including some that might not sound too appetizing from Lester’s Fixins, such as Ranch Dressing, Buffalo Wing Sauce, and Enchilada. However, if you can drink eight of them, not necessarily all in one night, you join the Gross Soda Club, which comes with a free T-shirt and craft soda.
“That was just something fun to do,” Kaszowski said of the club. “We carry over 100 craft sodas, so we just kind of picked some that were crazy flavors.”
Going beyond music
Along with a variety of drinks, the Muse also features artwork from local creatives.
“It can be kind of hard to get into the galleries around town, but we’ve had art up from anyone from 5 years old to 85,” Kaszowski said. “We’ve had several artists that had not displayed anywhere else. So, we gave them a chance to sell their artwork.”
While music takes place in the back of the venue the art and other items can be purchased in the Muse Market up front, which was opened with the aid of artist Jaden Rice.
“The Muse gave me my first opportunity to pursue my dream of running an artist collective store, and it was the location of my very first mural,” Rice said. “If I had one thing to say about the guys at the Muse it would be they were absolutely willing to give opportunity and take chances on people. They gave me the outlet to give other artists an affordable and comfortable space to sell their work, and I’ll definitely be forever grateful for that.”
Something for all tastes
The eclectic nature of the artwork works its way to the stage, where all music is welcome, from death metal to punk to singer-songwriters to hip-hop.
“Well, the Muse meant a lot to me because it gave our youth a place to be inspired and enjoy themselves,” DJ J Tubbs said. “Underaged venues are typically tough around here, but that fan base was all about love, unity, and arts. Any genre, any concert. Always fun and love. The staff made sure each show was tasteful and just a good experience for both sides, artists and patrons.”
“The Muse has been a venue that has accepted every musician, big or small, in the local area,” alternative rockers Namby Pamby said. “It was a unique place that had great sound and offered a place for everyone to be themselves, and to support local musicians as well as local artists! We believe that this is a big loss for Fort Wayne, and we wish the best for everyone that was involved. The Muse will always be remembered as a stepping stone for not only us as a band, but all of our peers also involved in the art community. We loved The Muse on Main.”
Tough decision to make
Opening just four months before the pandemic struck, the Muse was able to withstand lockdowns, but recent crowd sizes proved too much.
“It seems like COVID really took the air out of things,” Kaszowski said. “Not really the fact that COVID is there, and people are afraid to come out. It’s just that people got used to being at home, and they’re just kind of not wanting to come out.”
Despite crowd sizes shrinking for many shows, the work Kaszowski and Roldan have been putting in hasn’t shrunk.
“We weren’t even really trying to sell the building,” Kaszowski said. “We’ve been kind of burned out, having two shows a week, so we had been talking about slowing down.
“We’re scraping by just to break even,” he added. “It’s hard to do that and still be super passionate about it. You put in all this work, but then no one shows up. The worst part about it is not being able to pay the bands that travel. When a band is traveling from Michigan, like an hour, two hours, and with gas prices being about $5 a gallon, and then I’m only able to give from $40-$50, that’s not good. I don’t feel good doing that. All that came into thinking, ‘OK, it’s time to sell it.’ ”
Kaszowski said he and Roldan turned down the first offer for the building, but after going back and forth, a deal was ultimately reached.
Despite its ending, Kaszowski is proud of the work he and Roldan put in and what it meant on the local scene.
“The goal was basically to have a spot where everybody could showcase their talents, whether it be art or music,” he said. “We’ve given so many bands a chance to play here. A lot of places might be set with the acts that they’re booking, where we had a lot of bands where this was the first place they played. Now, they might be playing all over town.
“We’ve come a long way since Day One,” he added. “We put our hearts into this place.”