The year 2020 keeps taking from us -- this time, it was Vaudeville Mews. 

Observers and business owners keep warning us how intense the loss of small businesses will be in the aftermath of COVID-19. A Yelp report circling my Twitter feed in mid-September said 60% of business closures due to the COVID-19 are now permanent, and it’s impossible to say how many businesses will be facing the same decisions in the colder months ahead. By no means is Vaudeville Mews the first Des Moines business to announce closure, but it’s the people and businesses in our personal circles that hit us the most. 

Since Vaudeville Mews opened in 2002, I saw my brother play drums onstage in his first of several bands; friends from my hometown in Indianola and in later life were regulars onstage and off. I saw Meg & Dia live for the first time there, an indie act I still follow religiously; the Dangerous Summer, Elizabeth Moen, and a cavalcade of other small artists both local and touring that I had the pleasure of meeting through Vaudeville Mews. 

My parents and the scrappy kids from the college art department were all equally comfortable mingling, and whenever I wanted a chance to introduce different circles of friends to each other, finding a show at Vaudeville Mews was a great excuse to do it. Vaudeville has been a destination whether I lived two hours or 10 minutes away. 

There are other people in Des Moines who were more ingrained in the venue’s circle, and they will do better justice to those memories. A friend of mine and a performer asked: When touring for bands is available again, someday, what will be left for them to play? How many years does it take to bring us back to a thriving local music scene? At a small scale, my hope is that Iowa will push harder to protect the small, “DIY” live music venues through COVID -- venues that can’t provide our daily coffee pickup or our necessities, but helped build the life and momentum that makes living and working in communities like Des Moines so rewarding. 

It’s not the slick and shiny venues that I remember most; it’s the scrappy businesses that gave many of us access to these experiences in the first place.