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Photograph by Claire Taylor

This Note's for You: The final scene at the Gaslighter Music Hall included a stage rush.

Selling the Farm

Another rock venue bites the dust; Gilroy's Gaslighter Music Hall goes dark

By Claire Taylor

GILROY RESIDENT Bill Wagner thought it would be fun to bring his 11-year-old son Colin to a concert at the Gaslighter Music Hall in Gilroy. Wagner used to bring his older son, now in the Marines, to the "trashy barn" for rock shows. But the April 30 concert would be Colin's first and last experience with the Gilroy Gaslighter, as it marked the final show at the 12-year-old venue.

Located next to the train tracks in downtown Gilroy, the Gaslighter exuded an old-time charm. It's the kind of place where everything smells like sweat and there's an ample supply of gum underneath the railings and counters with a lone pool table utilized as a merch area.

But as of May 1, the building has been fully subleased by Global Harvest Church, says Susan Gaetano, who owns the building with her husband, Mark. Global Harvest subleased the Gaslighter on Wednesdays and Sundays for three years, Gaetano says, and had wanted to make full use of the building for a while. Now that desire has become a reality. But with the close of the Gaslighter comes the loss of a live rock venue in the South County region. "[Now kids are] going to have to go up to San Jose," Gaetano says, "but for people in, like, Hollister, that's a bit of a drive."

The Gaslighter was the only all-ages venue in the Gilroy area, and Jim Azevedo, drummer for local act Rivals, says the manager has received multiple calls from parents angered by its closure. "I hope that new bands and their fans realize how rare these all-ages venues are, and I hope it sparks people to be creative about creating new venues," he says.

By the end of the evening at the Gaslighter's final show, more than 100 had come to bid farewell to the venue that has hosted acts such as Papa Roach, Incubus and Sevendust. Gaslighter manager Barb Smith wore a black Gaslighter shirt to commemorate the event. Acts Assailing Traitor Skies, Vindictive Tomorrow, Allan Poe, Our Name Is Robert Paulson, Sonic Mirth and Rivals played, providing ample mosh-pit-inducing fervor. Kids wildly swung their arms like machetes, occasionally dropping into brief breakdance moves between jabs at invisible enemies. Likely one of the singers left a lung behind after all of the growling and calling forth of spirits from the depths of the earth‹a deep throating of the musical kind.

Rivals closed out the evening, providing free candy and beach balls and randomly spraying silly string at the crowd and one another. The band has played at the Gilroy Gaslighter since early 2001, Azevedo says, and has hosted its annual Halloween concert there since 2002. As the band crept closer to playing its last note at the venue, lead singer Matt Reed paced the stage, expressing his thoughts about the South Bay music scene. "This venue's closing. Whether you love this venue or fucking can't stand this venue, its another blow to the local music scene," he said. "If you hear about a show and it's 30 minutes away, go to that show, because it might be the only venue left if things keep going the way they have."

For the band's last song, Reed called for anyone who's frequented the Gaslighter to come up onstage. "This is your stage," he said. As he sang, those in the crowd danced and onstage everyone huddled together in a sweaty mass as the final song in the history of the Gilroy Gaslighter came to an end.

Global Harvest plans to hold shows at the venue, Gaetano says, but performers must be Christian, though they don't necessarily have to play Christian music. The Gaslighter Theater in Campbell, also owned by the Gaetanos, is unaffected by the closing of the Gilroy Gaslighter.

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From the May 4-10, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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