The Garage takes its last waltz as fans say goodbye on New Year’s Eve

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The audience says goodbye to the Garage on New Year's Eve. (photo by Tucker Tharpe)

Pale, blue lights cast a solemn glow on the myriad of instruments scattered across the stage, a stage that has felt the necks of a thousand guitars, the wood of a thousand bass drums, quaked under the thousand soles of feet stomping out a rhythm. The stage, a passive observer to the musicians who have trekked across its worn wood for nearly two decades. And on the last day of a cold year, it held the last band of musicians for one final performance.

When the announcement was made in November that the Garage, Winston-Salem’s beloved music venue, would be closing its doors in 2018, the reaction gave birth to an array of feelings, sadness, disappointment and shock among them. And yet, the communal response of music lovers, local bands and longtime show-goers resounded in a wild yawp of celebration.

The annual New Year’s Eve show at the Garage on Sunday was the club’s last show. The bill carried a stellar line-up of local musicians and bands who all came together to close the venue.

“We’re going to miss this stage,” singer Gunnar Nagle said from behind his keyboard. “It’s the last one, so let’s make it a beautiful funeral.”

And though it was the last time the stage would hold performers, the room was alive and pulsing with celebration. The crowd ranged from young fans who came to see their favorite acts, to long-time patrons of the Garage who showed up to say goodbye.

Companyon, an emerging band from Winston-Salem, opened the night with a grand display of ambient, new wave music. Members played an array of instruments, from keyboards and drums, to cello and tasteful synths.

Gunnar Nagle’s trio featured two musicians from North Carolina folk band, the Collection: Josh Dorsett on bass and Tim Joel on drums. Nagle’s music flows in the vein of Bon Iver and indie, ambient sounds, with Nagle’s warm baritone voice riding just above the melodies. The flow of bands was continuous and organic, each act almost building off the previous. And like the bands that would follow for the rest of the show, Companyon and Nagle featured numerous local musicians who collaborated with each other on stage for the evening.

From Victoria Victoria and Tyler Nail, to the Genuine singing the crowd into the first moments of the New Year, the night was a reflection of music and bands that have built a major part of the music scene in Winston. But it was no simple coincidence that all these acts should come together for one final night.

The Garage has long been a helping hand for up-and-coming bands to find their footing. Since it opened its doors in the late ’90s, the club has been a staple in the Triad, one that will leave a large gap in the music community.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time now,” owner Tucker Tharpe said. “And I’ve been thinking about this decision for a long time, but sometimes to find joy, you need to take a step back. One thing has to die in order for something else to live.”

The club was filled long before the show started and the line was constant through the long corridor leading inside. Eyes lingered on the mosaic of poster and fliers of bygone shows. The crowd screamed forth their cheers and praise with each song, each performer who took the stage.

As the speakers bellowed the last songs, the entire room seemed alive with the music of not only this final night, but of all the nights that had come before. It was a farewell show that won’t soon be forgotten as the music and memory of the club lives on in the numerous artists who once took the stage.

What comes next for the Garage remains to be seen, but just as the community came together for such a grand farewell, there is hope that perhaps others may pick up the pieces, and music will continue to sound from within the Garage.

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