Inside the Belly Up’s return
“Hearing about the upcoming pandemic in March 2020 was like watching a slow moving train coming towards you,” remembers Chris Goldsmith, president, Belly Up Entertainment.
“It’s moving at 2 mph, but your car is stalled on the tracks and it’s inevitable you’d be hit.”
Goldsmith and his staff at the popular North County music venue have had a roller-coaster of a ride navigating the effects of the coronavirus pandemic which turned his otherwise popular venue for live music upside down.
“March 12, 2020 was our final show and it was a surreal time,” he remembers of the infamous week the nation stood still. When that night’s performers, Hot Snakes, left the stage, Goldsmith wasn’t sure how long the venue would have to be shuttered. “I was thinking that the worst case scenario was that we’d reopen in the summer of 2020, maybe even May,” he says. “I was right about that. All I got wrong was the year.”
Now, thanks to a declining spread of infections due to a proliferation of vaccinations, live music is coming back to America, whether massive events like music festivals, arenas or small clubs. For the Belly Up, musicians will grace the stage for audiences once again this month with a calendar chock-full of live shows. The return of live audiences will no doubt serve as a victory lap after a trying year which saw numerous similar venues close their doors across the nation. But as Goldsmith explains, the Belly Up, a Solana Beach mainstay since 1974, was never in extreme danger.
“There was never any doubt that we were going to reopen when this was over,” he says. “We’ve had an amazing run before this and were in a good situation, but it was still very stressful. We had a responsibility to be a source of livelihood for over 100 people, and the safety nets available seemed to really work for our employees.”
Helped along by the federal government’s PPP loans, the Belly Up also applied for a shuttered venue grant. However, as of press time, Goldsmith is still looking forward to those funds. “We were approved in December and we’re still waiting, which has been tortuous. But we do know it’s coming.”
While the venue has been closed to the public since the spring of 2020, that doesn’t mean it remained silent. “We’re one of the luckiest clubs in the country because we were able to figure out how to operate as a broadcast facility, which meant we could still have performers come and film them for a live stream,” says Goldsmith who helped produce around 50 streamed performances for the digital realm.
“It was a lot of work for not much money, but it kept us connected to live music and gave some bands an outlet they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” he explains. “It was a whole new world and was like trying to learn an entirely new business on the fly.”
For the occasion of the Belly Up’s return, the Texas singer-songwriter Charley Crockett will hit the stage for two sold-out shows on July 7 and 8, followed by The White Buffalo on July 9. “Charlie is the perfect Belly Up artist; an up-and-coming country guy with classic roots. Then we have The White Buffalo, which is one of our longtime favorites,” Goldsmith said. Other upcoming artists include the likes of The Marshall Tucker Band, Neko Case, Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real, and the acclaimed blues guitarist Buddy Guy.
Says Goldsmith: “I couldn’t be anymore excited about coming back.”
For information on upcoming shows, tickets and more, go to bellyup.com.
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