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Iconic High Dive venue closes on a high note

High Dive's last day brought many music lovers together. (Courtesy High Dive)
High Dive's last day brought many music lovers together. (Courtesy High Dive)

On Sunday night, the iconic Gainesville music venue, High Dive, hosted its bittersweet, last showcase called “All Hail High Dive" before permanently shutting its doors.

Starting at 2pm, music lovers shared laughter, tears and cheers while listening to eight musical acts celebrating High Dive’s legacy. Performing were Apex, Bli and the Miles, Buboy, The Hails, Madwoman, Rohna, Sooza and Quail Hollow.

On April 26th, High Dive founder and owner, Pat Lavery announced the venue’s planned closure in a Facebook post. Since 2011, High Dive has hosted many coming of age and already-established musical and comedic acts, previously named Common Grounds and the Covered Dish. Pop culture website, Consequence, named High Dive one of the 100 Best American Music Venues.

The Hails, who headlined the event, said the five-piece Indie band formed at the University of Florida and performed their first show at High Dive in 2015. The Hails guitarist Dylan McCue said the music venue is the heart and soul to the Gainesville music community.

“On a local level and on an international level, it's like it's the type of venue that's like, sort of perfectly in this middle ground,” McCue said. “We had our first real shows here when we were nobody and it’s had Green Day shows, it's had Modest Mouse shows, you have all these legends that have played here,” McCue said.

High Dive's list of last events displayed outside the venue. (Courtesy High Dive)
High Dive's list of last events displayed outside the venue. (Courtesy High Dive)

McCue said it’s hard for him to imagine Gainesville without High Dive.

“The Gainesville music scene is not going to die after this but it’ll certainly take a big hit,” McCue said.

The Hails’ guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist, Franco Solari, said his favorite memory of playing the venue was after he graduated from the University of Florida in 2019. Solari said their former photographer took his picture while he was jamming on a guitar solo, only to later be used to announce the venue’s closure.

Immortalizing the memory of High Dive, the Hails are collaborating with the music venue to create a documentary. Lead singer Robbie Kingsley said the documentary, which has no release date yet, will focus on the Hails’ last performance at High Dive and how a music venue helps indie bands to a successful music career.

Lavery, High Dive owner, said the hardest part in closing a music venue is vacating the site for the unknown.

High Dive displayed a chalk-written sign welcoming guests. (Courtesy High Dive)
High Dive displayed a chalk-written sign welcoming guests. (Courtesy High Dive)

“When you live in this city and you see what's happening, you know this is coming and anything local and special is just unprotected and it's gonna go away,” Laverly said. “It's just the trend of this town right now. Maybe it’s not a Gainesville trend, maybe it's an everywhere trend.”

Long-time High Dive bartender Morgan La Rue has worked at the music venue for six and half years and calls it her second home.

“It was just like the perfect job and I love everybody I work with,” La Rue said. “We had different bands all the time but we do have some regulars and I've gotten really close to them and I don't know what I'm gonna do without this place.”

La Rue said one of her favorite memories occurred when the venue hosted her private 40th birthday celebration.

“I had just moved here and I didn't know anybody and I was really depressed,” La Rue said. “My co-workers stayed after we closed and we just had the best time and they made me feel like part of the family.”

Lavery said the landlord has been looking to sell the venue for years now, meaning a High Dive relocation plan is possible but currently unlikely.

“Does it have the location? How much is that going to cost to create that space? And how much time is it going to take to create that space? Those are the really hard questions to invest all that time and money,” Lavery said.

Elliot is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.