Sunday, January 14, 2018


Most of us were probably asleep at 2:30 am on Saturday when the roof collapsed at Merriweather Post Pavillion. The pictures were all over social media yesterday. If you haven’t seen them, here’s a link to the Merriweather Facebook page. I know there are more out there but, as I didn’t take them myself, I’d rather not share here without the photographer’s permission. A quick Google search will most likely yield a number of images.

It’s difficult for me to look at these images without having some kind of emotional response. The stage area looks so naked and helpless. The iconic outline of the structure that has defined so many of our summers is suddenly just—gone. Merriweather isn’t merely a structure in our community. It’s almost like a member of the family, a friend.

Seth Hurwitz of I.M.P. was quick to release a statement assuring the public that Merriweather will be rebuilt and ready for the 2018 season. That’s got to be a huge financial commitment on top of what already has been invested in this project. I’m grateful that Merriweather continues to be deemed worthy of effort and investment. Life in Columbia would be irrevocably changed without it.

Believe it or not, there’s probably a little knot of naysayers who’d like to see this spell the end of our local live music venue. (I still haven’t gotten over the gentleman who shouted at me that I was against “putting a bubble on Merriweather” during an Oakland Mills Village election.) I haven’t seen any words to that effect in the last 24 hours, but then, I’m probably not a member of the right listservs.

Looking at the photographs yesterday made me think about the essence of what makes Merriweather “Merriweather”. Is it still our old friend without the old, rather homely, Frank Gehry facade? (Yes, I’ve always thought it was homely. And I’ve come to love it anyway.)

What would you say defines the essence of Merriweather? Here’s my take:

It is painful to see our old friend flattened and out of commission. But its spirit is intact. The gentle slope of the lawn as it rolls toward the Pavillion, the stage where so many amazing musicians have shared their gifts, the echoes of song, the memories of dancing, laughter, joy.

Merriweather has been declared to be ‘down for the count’ more than once during its lifetime. And yet, time after time, it keeps proving those forecasts wrong. I.M.P. and the
Downtown Arts and Culture Commission look up to the challenge to me.

This is a terrible setback. Yes, the damage is significant. But the spirit of the place is resilient and strong.

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