A year after the Hi-Tone moved from its long-time Poplar location to a space on Cleveland in Crosstown, the iconic Midtown music venue has a new owner. Former owner Jonathan Kiersky announced last week that he would be selling the Hi-Tone to former Newby's manager Brian "Skinny" McCabe. Although the Hi-Tone and Newby's, which closed its doors last month, both catered to live music, the bars didn't have much in common regarding the types of bands that play at both places. Newby's bookings leaned more toward jam bands, folk rock, and electronic music, while the Hi-Tone is known for its indie, punk, and metal acts. And that raised some concern with Hi-Tone patrons on social media last week. We sat down with McCabe to find out more about his plans for the Hi-Tone. — Chris Shaw
Flyer: How did this opportunity come about?
McCabe: I had been talking with Jonathan for a little while about doing my own place, and I guess he was guiding me per se, giving me advice on what he thought worked and what didn't. Then, out of the blue, he calls me up and said that he wanted to travel more and asked if I wanted to own the Hi-Tone. I can't stress "out of the blue" enough. I had no idea he was even thinking of selling.
When do you officially take over?
I've got the key in my pocket, so I guess right now. We are doing a slow and soft transition. There's still some paperwork that has to be done here and there, but everything is pretty much solid.
Are you planning on booking the same types of bands the Hi-Tone always has?
I don't want to stray far from the formula that's already working, but we do come from different backgrounds. Jonathan has worked with a ton of booking agencies that I haven't worked with, and I've worked with a lot of booking agencies that he hasn't. So if we can combine the two, we should have a stacked calendar of shows on our hands.
Do you plan on using the small back room for shows or turning it into something different?
If you get 100 people in there, it feels like some kind of New York City sweat box, and I think that adds a cool element to the venue. There will definitely still be shows in the small room.
You're planning to bring food back to the
Hi-Tone. Can you tell me about the menu?
[We are going to have] a lot of sandwiches and kabobs, but done with a really unique twist, and a bunch of appetizers that no one has ever seen before. The plan is to put the food out there and see what works and what doesn't, but I can't give out any more information because it's top secret right now. The stuff on the menu will be standing food, something people have never eaten before while they are at a concert venue.
What else will be different about the new ownership?
[The Hi-Tone has] already been working well. I don't think it needs to change. I don't see why everyone is freaking out. The past couple days, I've been getting a lot of hate mail, but I encourage anyone who has any ideas to bring them to me. I've met with the staff, and everyone is really cool and accepting, so I encourage anyone who hasn't met me to come down and see what I'm all about. Above everything else, I just want to carry on the tradition