HUNTINGTON — The news is now official: The COVID-19 pandemic has ended the longtime run of the beloved live music venue known as The V Club.
The V Club effectively died March 15, 2020, with the last notes of that evening’s rockin’ show by singer and songwriter William Matheny and his band. A couple of days later, gathering restrictions went into place as the pandemic began to ramp up across the country.
Over a half a million deaths followed, with 10 million jobs lost in less than a year. One of the many business categories that was devastated during the long, strange period of recent history was the music industry. After months of being shut down, the owners of The V Club decided to pull the plug on one of the Tri-State’s longest-running venues.
For many years, The V Club was the hub for live music acts that came through the Mountain State and Huntington specifically. Nationally touring bands performed there, as well as many local and regional groups. And over the years, it was cool to witness the power of a small-town club surrounded by a growing music scene where multiple artists on the rise cut their teeth before making it to the national level. Tyler Childers and John R. Miller are perfect examples of this phenomenon, with both hanging around and performing at the venue often before making their rise to fame.
When the bells began to toll as the deadly virus crept forward, with The V Club now dark and empty month after month, co-owner Patrick Guthrie had a decision to make. Now, nearly a year and a half later, something fresh is about to rise out of the old venue’s dust.
The V Club was created by Guthrie and his father, Patrick Guthrie Sr., in 2006.
“I purchased the building from my father about five years ago or so,” said Guthrie. “Then, the whole pandemic thing basically shut us down. We were doing everything we could to keep it open up until March 15, 2020. Our last show was with Billy Matheny. Then, around St. Paddy’s Day, they didn’t want anyone going out. The governor went on television and said, ‘We’re shutting it all down.’ That is the first time that we faced hard times as a business. You just don’t know if you will be able to pull out of it.”
Guthrie is also the co-owner of the Black Sheep Burrito and Brews establishments in Huntington and Charleston, as well as the Bahnhof WVrsthaus & Biergarten in Huntington and the Bad Shepherd Brewery in Charleston. Those businesses found a way to partially reopen a few months into the pandemic. The V Club, however, and live music in general were shut down as artist after artist began to perform live over the internet for Venmo tips from their living rooms and garages. Guthrie and crew had to face reality and shut down the club.
Today, a new establishment is about emerge from the ashes of The V Club. The building is being remodeled and by next month The Loud — Live Music & Beer Garden will make its debut.
This new business will continue to be a premier live music venue for Huntington and the Tri-State, with the added attraction of an outdoor beer garden and a stone-baked craft pizzeria. The beer garden will feature choice brews made at the brewery in Charleston.
“I think our first show back will be with John R. Miller on July 23,” said Guthrie. “John is blowing up nationally (with his new Rounder Records solo album ‘Depreciated’ debuting in July). He is managed by Ian Thornton, who also manages Tyler Childers. We have put a stone pizza oven in the back, and we will sell pizza by the slice at the music shows. On the days with no shows, we will do some take-out-and-go along with some table service out in the new beer garden. We are keeping the menu simple as we focus on our take-out service and delivery, adding a new facet to the venue.”
The desire to keep The Loud — Live Music & Beer Garden the same source of live music that The V Club provided is important to Guthrie.
“I have always considered The V Club as a community, and that will be true of The Loud — Live Music & Beer Garden as well,” said Guthrie. “We want to keep it going because there is not a lot of opportunity to bring in regionally touring music acts here as well as showcasing local musicians. Over 15 years, we have put on a lot of shows. Local graphic artist Jimbo Valentine has made over 1,800 flyers and posters for the venue over the years. He started doing that for us about four years after we opened with the show by the band Clutch in 2009 being the first one. That first gig poster is a tradable collector’s item still today. It is a heavily sought-after flyer even now as he made limited edition posters out of it.”
Guthrie has not only upgraded the inside of the club, but he has also upgraded the PA system to modernize the sound.
“We moved the bar and did some plumbing work and brought in a new all-digital PA system,” said Guthrie. “Nothing changes. We’re just giving the place a fresh, modern look. Our sound guy Sam Moore has been with us for about 13 years, and he will be going from a straight analog sound system to digital. There are a lot of great things about the old analog sound systems, but we have been beating up these speaker boxes for 15 years, so it was time for a change. Touring acts want and need certain things now, so we had to upgrade. Plus, to have a club called The Loud, we want the live music to be loud, but we also want it to sound good.”