Kansas City’s live music community was just beginning to understand how hard the scene would be hit by coronavirus cancelations on March 14. Then came news that a fire had gutted Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club in Midtown.
Owner Michele Markowitz says she's been overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support, and plans to rebuild just as soon as she can.
"We’re going to do our best to recreate the atmosphere, the design and sound of the old bar," Markowitz says. "A lot of our memorabilia we’re hoping to replace, but of course some will not make it.”
For now, the neon has gone dark at the corner of 34th and Main. The brick building Markowitz's father, Davey Markowitz, opened in 1950 is shuttered.
Markowitz's daughter, Lyla Masters, has started Ramble On, an open Facebook page to share photos and memories. There is also a GoFundMe page where fans can donate directly to support the staff relief fund.
“Local music has built Davey’s," Markowitz says. "I mean we’re part of it, but they are the heart and soul of this.”
Davey’s was an important first gig for R.L. Brooks and his punk band Flee the Seen. So when Brooks heard the news he wanted to help. His company, Seen Merch in Merriam, Kansas, makes T-shirts for rock-and-roll shows around the globe, and soon he’ll be making T-shirts to raise money for Davey’s staff who are now out of work.
“Davey’s is absolutely a treasure," says Brooks. "I think there are so many artists in town that will say, 'that is exactly where I started expressing myself.'”
“For me, as a musician in Kansas City, it’s sacred ground really,” says Scott "Rex" Hobart, of Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys. “I mean, Davey’s was the first place that I really felt like if I could get a show there I was really getting somewhere.”
It was a small, intimate club where a band could connect with their audience.
“That club is a rock star in itself," Hobart says. "I can close my eyes and just picture that front row with all those people who were really into it and then, you know, bringing the drinks up, trays and trays of booze. And I am sure we had more good times than we can remember there but we definitely had plenty to remember and it just was beautiful.”
For the past six years, Gary Cloud hosted Wednesday night’s open mic for songwriters.
“My very first time I went there I think it was '89 or '90," Cloud says. "I walked in and within the first five seconds I’m like, 'This is home.' I just found my place to be. It was like the miniature sun and I just started spinning around it and so did a lot of other talented people songwriters, musicians, artists that are all my friends, my family.”
Cloud says the eclectic mix of music was a big part of what made Davey’s so stimulating.
“It kind of wound up like CBGBs in a way,” Cloud says, comparing Daveys to the iconic New York City club. “One night we’ll have metal, the next night punk, the next night bluegrass, and we’re pretty much all the same crowd all the time coming in and out. It’s one big family of different genres. Good times had by all.”
The variety kept things interesting for Michael Curry, who worked as a bartender and is better known by his nickname, Mokie.
"You go from mohawks one night to cowboy hats the next to sunglasses and berets the next," he says. "You never know what you're going to walk into."
As long as a customer wasn't driving, Curry says, he would generally let them order as many drinks as they wanted.
"That could lead to feeling really bad the next day," says Curry. "People would wake up the next day and you'd see it posted on Facebook. 'You got Mokied last night.'"
Hobart says his band is ready to take the stage at Davey’s whenever they rebuild.
“I want to consider ourselves penciled in for as soon as they can have us,"says Hobart. "As long as we can keep our silly band together. We’ll come out and play at Davey’s Uptown. That’s the real show.”
While some things were lost in the fire, Hobart says what’s most important about Davey’s will always remain.
“You don’t burn up that magic, you know, you don’t. It’s just like it’s not the place, it’s the people. And the people are there, thankfully. You know, there was no one hurt. That’s really what matters.”
Julie Denesha is a freelance photographer and reporter for KCUR. Follow her on Twitter @juliedenesha.