HAIL HAIL: Hometown favorites The Hails will play the final show at Gainesville, Florida, club The High Dive, which takes place this Sunday. (Vanessa Vlandis)

The High Dive, Gainesville, Florida’s alt rock jumpstarter, is coming to a sudden halt after their landlord gave the venue 30 days to vacate to make way for a new owner who will redevelop the property.

“Obviously, gentrification is killing small music rooms around the country,” said Pat Lavery, exclusive promoter and facility manager at the High Dive since 2011. “Unique local venues like ours are what make neighborhoods unique – and people wanting to live in them. Then the developers come in and force everyone out through sales and rent hikes to replace with apartments and chain stores.”

On Sunday, May 19, The Hails, who formed at the University of Florida and got their start at the venue in 2015, will play the High Dive’s final hurrah — a friends and family affair to send off one of the most popular alternative music destinations in the state.

“Every musician has a place where they feel they truly cut their teeth, and High Dive was ours,” said frontman Robbie Kingsley. “We take pride in being a band that started in Gainesville and we were able to climb the ladder of playing local indie showcases and food truck rallies, to eventually selling out shows of our own. High Dive always welcomed us and gave us countless opportunities to improve — even when we were insufferable college kids who showed up late to soundcheck and sometimes only cared about how many drink tickets we could score.”

Groups like The Hails, flipturn, Against Me!, Hot Water Music and Less Than Jake got their start at High Dive, while established acts including Kenny Chesney, Mike Campbell (The Heartbreakers), Black Flag, Built To Spill, Mitski and Ethel Cain have performed there over the years.

The High Dive has been in operation since the 1990s under various names (Covered Dish, Common Grounds) and ownerships. The venue has been an annual host location for The Fest, a multi-day, multi-venue hardcore punk, alt rock festival in the city, and was included in Consequence’s list of 100 Best American Music Venues in 2016.

“As a performer, I learned invaluable lessons from the people who worked at High Dive and from those who came to our shows,” continued Kingsley. “Every time I was on stage, I discovered something new about myself and the community. The building has a soul that can’t be extinguished, enriched by all the culture that has been shaped within its walls. Having spent nearly a decade in Gainesville, I’m sad to see it go. I always planned to return for more shows and good times. High Dive will be dearly missed, but its impact will resonate with us forever.”

“A big part of the mission of a small to mid-sized local music venue like High Dive, in a small college town like Gainesville, is to help develop local talent,” explained Lavery. “We have given hundreds, if not thousands, of local bands their shot on this stage. Most play a few shows to their friends, then break up upon graduation and move on. I’m proud to say that The Hails are one of our biggest local success stories from the 13 years of High Dive’s operation.”

HIGH DIVE HISTORY: Madi Florence took her graduation photos at the High Dive in 2020, before working with now-PR client The Hails. (Madison Steadman)

Music rooms have a unique role in the live ecosystem. They are an affordable entry point for fans to develop a love for music and bands and a platform for developing acts to find an audience. Madi Florence was a student at UF, when she caught The Hails at High Dive in 2017. Today, she is a senior publicist at Big Hassle Media working with the band.

“When I started attending the University of Florida, I had no idea that I wanted to work in the music industry and I am eternally grateful that starting to go to shows at High Dive fully rerouted my career path,” she said. “It’s one of those things that you look back on and think about how crazy it is that having access to a space like High Dive had such a massive impact on the path of my entire life going forward.”

Florence even took her senior pictures at High Dive holding a can of PBR and wearing a Hails T-shirt.

“High Dive has been the epicenter of the live music scene in Gainesville for 13 years, and for at least another 14 years before us in the same location under different names,” Lavery said. “It was the defacto place where bands wanted to stop on tour, and local and regional bands developed. It’s the training ground for theaters, festivals and arenas. For it to no longer be here creates a missing link in the chain of the [live] ecosystem.”

When venues with deep community ties close, it’s not merely a business shuttering, but the end of something people have a deep emotional attachment to; Lavery hopes to recreate that kindred relationship again at another location.

“We will continue booking shows under our promotions arm Glory Days Presents! in our home market of Gainesville and around Florida while we keep an eye out for a possible new space,” he said.