With an unpredictable future looming precariously before them, Rochester-area club owners have been caught in a kind of COVID-19 limbo. In this ongoing series of The F-Word, CITY music writer Frank De Blase finds out how businesses that rely on a regular live audience are staying afloat.
Rochester metal fans are a fiercely loyal lot. And though Montage Music Hall, located downtown at 50 Chestnut Street, brings in bands from all genres, it’s predominantly a metal club. Montage’s talent buyer and headbanger-in-chief, Randy Peck, has been bringing classic, speed, and death metal music to town for 15 years.
Montage Music Hall's Randy Peck (left) with guitarist Neil Giraldo
But the treacherous speed bump that is the coronavirus pandemic has halted all shows and slowed things down in a hurry. Like other local venue owners, Peck sought out the government aid provided through the Payroll Protection Program. Peck says he applied immediately, but that Montage’s application was unsuccessful.
“Unfortunately, we have not heard back,” Peck says. “And as of now, those assets have now run dry. There is talk of there being another round.” So at this point, it’s a waiting game.
But Montage is getting black-leather love from all over Rochester’s metal kingdom. Peck has been knocked out by the community’s response.
“I have to say, the fans of the Montage Music Hall have been amazing,” he says. “The outpouring of support has been overwhelming.”
Peck contemplated launching a fundraising campaign, but was reluctant to start one until the feedback from fans on social media made him reconsider. He has since created a GoFundMe campaign
that raised more than $3,800 of its $25,000 goal in the first week.
“This support made it an easy decision not to sit and wait for things to happen, but rather be proactive,” Peck says. In return for donations, he says supporters will receive tickets to future Montage Music Hall events.
Still, many unanswered questions loom for Peck and Montage. How will the bills be paid without concerts generating revenue? When the club reopens, the timing of which is completely unclear, will there be occupancy limits or other restrictions in place? What safety measures will be needed to keep concertgoers protected from the virus?
Peck says that physical distancing guidelines have forced him to cancel Montage shows until at least July 1, even if the state lifts its restrictions on businesses by June 1.
Despite the bleak situation, Peck is encouraged.
“Rochester has always been a rock city, a metal city, a live music city, and these fans have always been so loyal to the music they love,” he says. “They have been so loyal to us. It has really given me the added push to fight through this.”
Frank De Blase is CITY's music writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.