Musicians in Warrensburg lost a creative outlet when The Bay closed in June.
Marilyn Brie Herrick, a UCM alumna and aspiring singer/songwriter, said she was really shocked when she found out the bar was shutting its doors for good.
“I was devastated because that’s my home, my second family kind of thing and just a comfortable place to go instead of your normal bar,” Herrick said.
Herrick had been performing at The Bay’s open mic nights frequently since early 2016. She said the music, good company and open-minded crowd kept her coming back.
“That’s what really was so neat about that place is that anytime I walked in the door, I knew I didn’t have to put on a face,” Herrick said. “I could just be myself and a lot of people there were the same way and that was one of the best things about that place.”
Herrick holds one particular memory of The Bay close to her heart.
“I remember that I was interviewed by Andy Lyons from Central Mo News,” Herrick said. “That was the night my first boyfriend of six years…had come to one of my shows a couple weeks before he died. And I hadn’t seen him in probably like four years.”
Herrick said her ex gave her a big hug afterwards.
“It was like, ‘ok this is our goodbye’. But it was more than that,” Herrick said. “It was like a final goodbye…And I remember him being up at the top of the stairs with his sister Lauren… The last time I played there, there was a light that shines like right where he was standing and I just remember looking up and being like, ‘I know you’re watching over me’ kind of thing. It’s hard to think about, but I’m glad that because of the Bay that was where I got to see him.”
Herrick said The Bay was one of the few places in town to showcase live music. She said she got to see bands like Katy Guillen and The Girls, Ces Cru and Danielle Nicole Band perform there.
“And that’s another thing about The Bay is that it was different – they had country music, they had rap, they had originals for singer-songwriters,” Herrick said. “They would have all kinds of different genres there and that was really fun too.”
Ben Blevins, the former owner of The Bay, said his intention when opening the bar in July of 2007 was to keep live music in Warrensburg because it had always been a live music town.
“We had a group of friends interested in music, a lot of friends that are in bands, so we decided to build it from the ground up and try to get bands coming through to stop and play for us and local bands as well,” Blevins said. “Pretty much the music was our main goal.”
Blevins said The Bay’s biggest appeal was a non-judgmental, diverse and easygoing crowd.
“Everybody felt welcome and I think that’s what really draws the artists and the bands – the fact that you can go in there and you know there’s not going to be a fight, nobody’s going to be judging you for whoever you are,” Blevins said.
Blevins said its closing felt almost like losing a child.
“And even the business itself, it was something that we had all thought of together and poured our heart and souls into it,” Blevins said. “So the last few nights were kind of surreal, just a lot of emotions gathered together and it was kind of hard to put them all into place. I was happy, I was sad, I was frustrated, I was everything all at once.”
John Check, professor of music theory at UCM, said The Bay was an important place for live music. He said he played the string bass there with his band, Luehrman, Shaffer and Check. The band is comprised of UCM faculty: Mick Luehrman, a professor in the art department and Tony Shaffer who was a writing tutor on campus.
“It was a satisfying place to play because the people were there to listen to the music,” Check said. “You could get close to the audience; they could get close to you. So it was a wonderful opportunity for me and I miss it.”
Check said he enjoyed the times when his students would come out to listen to his band.
“It was very flattering to me, to think that after listening to me during the day in the classroom that they would care to come out and hear me play at night,” Check said. “I have some lovely memories of that. Sometimes up to 12 or 15 of them would come out.”
UCM senior Digital Media Production major Nicholas Wallace performed most Thursday nights at The Bay’s open mic night. He said the best part was that there were no judgements, and that the people who worked there were just as interested in hearing him play as the friends he would drag along.
“You could always be comfortable in The Bay. One of the first times I performed, a friend jokingly told me to take my shirt off,” he said. “And then the owner chimed in and from then on, most times I performed, it was just a ritual to take my shirt off. Everyone was always very nice and if I’d miss a week, the workers would be so excited to see me, or if I’d see them outside of The Bay randomly they would also welcome me with an embrace.”
Wallace said with The Bay closed, there’s nowhere for artists to express themselves comfortably.
“No other place in Warrensburg is as friendly and open and welcoming as they were, and the fact that we lost a place for local artists to hop on stage for a few minutes a week impacts everyone negatively,” Wallace said. “I got a lot of practice doing that and now I’ve lost my drive to play guitar as much since I never have an outlet to perform it.”
Herrick said she made lifelong friends and great memories at The Bay. She said the bar had an impact on her as a musician.
“It definitely gave me more practice up on stage,” Herrick said. “I got very comfortable just in that atmosphere. I could be more comfortable there than anywhere else because I was there so often, but as a musician I definitely feel like I’ve improved stage-presence wise.”
She was there for the bar’s last two nights.
“I was really upset and I went in there, did my last open mic night. Said my goodbyes. It was bittersweet for sure,” Herrick said. “Everybody was going around signing the walls and stuff, it was really fun. It was a crazy, wild night…Everybody was just trying to get their last hoorah in before it goes.”
Herrick said she remembers looking back through all of the memories that last night.
“I was just so upset but (thought) maybe whoever buys this place will turn it into something magical, something even better,” Herrick said. “But I don’t know how you can get better than The Bay because it was just so great.”