This past Thanksgiving, but there was a strange sense of bittersweet loss hovering near South Front Street. Last weekend, Columbus music venue Double Happiness hosted its last shows before closing its doors permanently.
Double Happiness was a special place. Maybe it’s because of the bizarre, kitschy Chinese-themed decorations, or maybe it’s because I met so many new friends under those deep red lights. Maybe it’s just because that was where I saw my first “real” show, but stepping into that dimly-lit, grungy building always felt like stepping into another world.
It’s homey, quirky, and definitely a little weird, but it was one of those places where time never existed. It’s too easy to get lost in conversation on the broken couches on the second floor above the stage, listening to the next band get set up, or to lose track of time while swaying on the porch swing on the back patio, breathing in secondhand smoke and trying not to hit the tree.
The reason there are so many emotions attached to this venue is not only because of the music I’ve seen on that tiny stage. Double Happiness is where I’ve met most of my music friends for the first time, after all. Before knowing Kelc Galluzzo of Jetty Bones or anyone in Hidden Places or Cameron Carr and Sierra Mollenkopf of First Responder and Trying, I saw them all perform on that stage.
I got to know a girl who is now one of my best friends when we walked into the venue before The Walters played. My little sister met her favorite singer at an As It Is show, and I saw her truly happy for the first time in months after a messy year. I even drove a carful of my friends to one of the venue’s last shows because they’d never seen local music and I wanted to share one of my favorite places with them.
Only a short time after the announcement that Double Happiness planned to close, Park Street declared the same, and at the beginning of the summer, Carabar and several house venues shut down. The declining number of venues – especially all-ages ones – poses a threat to the music-loving teenagers of Columbus as well as the music scene in general.
Despite the bad reputation that teenagers sometimes have when it comes to music, it’s an integral part of many kids’ lives and has the ability to permanently change them. I can’t even count the number of times that music – or the people who I’ve met through music – have helped me get through difficult patches, especially this past hellish year. The power of kids being in their own bands and loving music is unbelievably important.
On top of the social benefit, teenagers tend to be an untapped resource for the Columbus music scene. Although high schoolers don’t contribute to alcohol sales at shows, they’re enthusiastic, bringing friends and buying music. When it comes to music lovers, there are few things that a high schooler loves as much as introducing their friends to a “cool new local band” – and I speak from experience.
This isn’t new information to anybody, though, and certainly not those already involved in the music industry. However, there is still an increasing lack of spaces for teenagers to nurture that love of music locally, so the next logical step is to advocate for them.