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Closed after 45 years: The Graduate shuts its doors after decades of providing live music, dancing, and grub

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About five weeks before all hell broke loose, I wrote about Norwegian dungeon synth artist Mortiis playing a live show at The Graduate on Feb. 9 ("Take your black metal thrashing under Mortiis' dungeon synth at The Grad," Feb. 6, 2020). I didn't know it at the time, but that was the last live music show at The Grad that I would ever write about.

That show seems like a lifetime ago, not six months, and now The Graduate, which has served music lovers for 45 years, is closing for good. Though the establishment didn't list the fallout of COVID-19 as the specific reason for the closure, I'm sure the pandemic didn't help.

First opened in 1975, the sprawling venue served up great chow but was better known as a gathering place for young people to dance and mingle. Just after graduating from high school, I spent many a night there shaking my moneymaker during Minor Madness, their underage dance night. Later Big Chill Night, Country Night, and Noche Caliente drew revelers. There were also many memorable live music events; some I don't remember. The Grad poured a pretty stiff drink. Now it's closed.

Rolling Stone magazine recently wrote in its Aug. 14 issue, "The fate of the live music industry—along with that of millions of other small businesses and unemployed Americans—remains up in the air now that both chambers of Congress have left Washington for their August recess without passing a new COVID-19 relief bill."

END OF AN ERA After 45 years, The Graduate Restaurant and Nightclub is closing its doors, ending a long run of dance nights and live music. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GRADUATE
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Graduate
  • END OF AN ERA After 45 years, The Graduate Restaurant and Nightclub is closing its doors, ending a long run of dance nights and live music.

Thankfully, organizations are lobbying on behalf of the music industry, and you can help, too.

"Over the past few weeks, music industry organizations including the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO)—both of which sprung up in response to the pandemic—have been lobbying for two bills: the Restart Act and the Save Our Stages Act," Rolling Stone wrote. "The Restart Act, introduced in both the House and Senate, isn't specifically tailored to the music industry, but broadly focuses on businesses with high overhead and no revenue during the pandemic—a category that includes live music. The Save Our Stages Act, introduced by Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, would have specifically provided six months of financial support to independent venue operators, promoters, and talent reps."

If you value live music and the local businesses that serve our live music community, I urged you to visit the NITO website, where you can send a personal message to your elected representatives urging them to pass legislation to save the live music industry: nitolive.org/resources/take-action.

As for The Grad, it's left a lot of memories in its wake: "This is heartbreaking," Melissa Catherine Blanchard commented on The Grad's Facebook page. "It's where I met my husband line dancing."

Safety first! Livestream from A-Town

"For the safety and well-being of our community, we are offering this summer's concert series virtually," noted the city of Atascadero, which has made its summer concert season online into the foreseeable future.

"We have an amazing virtual lineup that you can enjoy from your own backyard or plan a watch party with your family or friend group!" the press announcement continued. "The virtual concerts will be available live on KPRL 1230AM from 6 to 7 p.m., or you can watch the show live on our YouTube channel (atascadero.org/YouTube). Any of our Facebook pages will also provide you with the YouTube link information. The live feed on atascadero.org/YouTube will be broadcast from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and KPRL from 6 to 7 p.m. Listen in or watch, but add it to your evening entertainment list for this Saturday, Aug. 22!"

PHAT AND SASSY Hard pop brass act Brass Mash will play a livestream concert on Aug. 22, at part of Atascadero's Summer Concert series. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BRASS MASH
  • Photo Courtesy Of Brass Mash
  • PHAT AND SASSY Hard pop brass act Brass Mash will play a livestream concert on Aug. 22, at part of Atascadero's Summer Concert series.

This week's show features hard pop brass ensemble Brass Mash, which usually takes two popular songs and mashes them up into a medley of their own arrangement, like their "California Mind Me Up," which mashes "California Gurls" by Katy Perry with "Piece of Mind" by Boston; or "Beat It Still," which mashes "Feel It Still" by Portugal the Man with "Beat It" by Michael Jackson. Both Brass Mash versions have great YouTube videos!

It's freaking brilliant, and they're one of the most energetic and out-and-out fun live bands you're likely to see. This livestream event might not be quite as amazing as seeing Brass Mash right in front of you live, but it will still be awesome! Promise! This band is proof positive that there is life after band camp. Δ

Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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