Do the songs remain the same?
‘“This is the last song I ever played on that jukebox,’” says Adam Thorn. ‘“So this song is dedicated to the jukebox.’”
With that he launches into a cover of Otis Redding’s ‘“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now).’” He and the two other members of his band crowd into the front corner of College Hill; the packed Friday audience squeezes into the narrow aisle between the bar and the booths. No one stands in a patch of floor open at the rear of the front room where that jukebox used to stand.
Tonight that section of floor ‘— a rectangle of linoleum a little lighter than the black-and-white squares around it ‘— feels like a grave. Instead of the old behemoth’s sunset glow, surging pastel lights from a wall-mounted replacement greet bar patrons on this Friday night. At my table, it’s all anyone is talking about.
A later visit on a quiet Sunday evening gets this story from the bartender. Apparently the old jukebox broke, and the company that made it is going out of business. So the new owners decided to scrap the obsolete machinery in favor of a digital version with a wider selection of music.
Although the number of artists and bands available might be greater, there is an unavoidable sense of loss with this replacement. The old jukebox featured several local bands, some of which hadn’t been around for years. You could drop in your quarters to hear some Raymond Brake, Kudzu Wish or Those Bugs are Eating the Other Bug’s Guts.
The jukebox catered to the college radio and punk types that frequented the dive for cheap beer, pinball and community. It was a dark, smoky, dirty place with tap beer likely to cause massive headaches the next day.
The bar closed over the summer when longtime manager Jason Paul bought the place and decided to renovate. Regulars welcomed most of the changes when the place reopened: doors on the women’s bathroom, the addition of mixed drinks and credit card machines.
People hardly grumbled about the 25 cents added to the $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon that flows like water within those walls. But Friday night the grumbling was audible.
College Hill is still a place to hear local music, but now you have to wait for the bands to come around instead of paying for a song or two on any quiet weeknight. Besides Warbomb, one Thorn project that won’t join the ranks of Those Bugs and Kudzu Wish in the archive of College Hill’s jukebox, Little Mascara played Friday.
When I came in on Sunday, a singer songwriter was setting up in the corner to an audience you could count on one hand. As he adjusted the mike stand, the only sound came from a quiet conversation at the bar.
One of my friends used to roll his eyes every time Television’s ‘“Marquee Moon’” played over the jukebox. Like clockwork the tune came out almost every night a crowd filled the room. There were other high rotation songs like Joy Division’s ‘“Love Will Tear Us Apart’” and the Talking Heads ‘“This Must be the Place.’”
I noticed that the Talking Heads often played when the lights came up and the drunks grudgingly left the bar. It’s a lukewarm love song perfect for so many of those who wile away the hours at Greensboro’s finest dive.
Home is where I want to be but I guess I’m already there
I haven’t talked to Paul about whether the jukebox will make a comeback. But couple its disappearance with the loss of Gate City Noise and there is a tangible sense that Greensboro’s indie rock community is losing the threads that hold it together.
College Hill is still a place where you probably know your bartender and the people shooting pool in the back. But for now the days are gone when you could take that familiarity ‘— along with a cheap beer ‘— over to the jukebox as well.
To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at firstname.lastname@example.org