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Farewell, Soapbox


Wilmington's music scene suffered a tremendous blow when news broke that the Soapbox would be closing its doors in late July.  The loss won't really be felt until it's gone.  But already the news is causing heartache throughout the creative community.  Sure, there are other venues.  Nice ones, too.  But the Soapbox is the center of it all.  It's almost a symbol of Wilmington itself.  It's a large part of the character of downtown.  John Staton of the Star News rightfully said "It's not quite the day the music died, but it's close."

The Soapbox was still just a baby when I first arrived in Wilmington some ten years ago.  It's where I started seeing great bands for the first time.  It's where you could see great local bands like the Title Ceremony and Thunderlip.  I must have seen ASG at least twenty times.  It's where I saw artists I consider some of the best: David Dondero for the first time, and Darren Hanlon.  I saw Denali there.  It's where I saw Maserati play just months before the death of their drummer, Jerry Fuchs.  And it's where I saw Mountain Goats and the Baptist Generals (a new discovery!) for the first time just last Friday.

Last Friday also happened to be the day Soapbox owners Brent Watkins and Joe Jones were nice enough to stop by and record this interview.  That was just a day after Brent announced on Facebook the Soapbox was shutting its doors.  The news was a shock.  It was an emotional roller-coaster sort of day, for them and for myself.  I went across the street, as I did many days since coming back to Wilmington 6 months ago after living a few years elsewhere.  It was all anyone could talk about.  The rain came down heavy that night, and sprinting back and forth between WHQR (to put on our backup transmitter, since we got knocked off the air) and the Soapbox in the deluge became yet another in a long list of memories I'll keep from there.  The mood was sad upstairs but everyone just kept doing what they do, as they did downstairs at the comedy room, which is losing its space as well. 

As Joe said in the interview, everyone has their memories of the place, and those are going to be what's most important to them.  And I could go on and on why losing the Soapbox is such a huge blow to the community at large.  But I'll just say that getting off work and seeing people across the street lounging out on the patio with a beer, having a place that I could call "home," staffed by people I loved talking to and spending my evenings with, and getting an opportunity to see hundreds of bands, many that I never heard of or even intended of going to see, are things I will so horribly miss.  Its doors were always open to all, and I think the place is an embodiment of what we all stand for, whatever those things might be.  And I’m sad those doors will be closing.  Wilmington just won't be the same.

Jeremy Loeb returned to WHQR at the start of 2013 after living in Washington D.C. and Carrboro, NC for a time. He had previously been working for WHQR as the host of All Things Considered and a backup to the station’s Operations Manager, George Scheibner for around 6 years. He moved back to his hometown of Durham to be close to family, where he worked at WUNC Public Radio for a stint of 2 years as a reporter, host, and producer. After that he moved up to DC with his partner for a year, which was a great experience for him. But he always remembered WHQR fondly and never lost his passion for public radio, so he was happy to return when the opportunity arose.