“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval
By Cat Boccaccio.
We lost an iconic gathering place back in 2010, when Toby’s Juke Joint blues club abruptly shut its doors and disappeared from the face of the Second Life earth. Toby’s was the first place I visited at birth, in 2007, my hang-out and refuge, and the place I made – and kept – new friends. Many of us “grew up” at Toby’s. There were regulars who became family, and a constant influx of newcomers (and newbies) to keep life interesting. It was a safe place to go by yourself, to meet people and dance or to quietly listen to a great DJ or a cool stream.
And when the Toby’s era ended, I and others felt thrust out into the real world unprepared for life without the blues and a friendly home. (Perhaps the closure of the club helped SL’s real estate market, since there was no need to purchase or rent land when you had Toby’s to come home to.)
I’m not sure there are any clubs that ever came close to the ambience of Toby’s, and it’s uncertain whether that “magic” can be recaptured. But there was a familiar, welcome pleasure in Toby Howton’s announcement of the reopening of Toby’s Juke Joint. I quickly contacted Toby, and he was kind enough to answer my nosy questions…
Me: What made you decide to reopen Toby’s Juke Joint?
Toby Howton: Some very dear friends have been trying to persuade me to reopen the club for some time now. I had resolved not to do so and to concentrate my efforts on the home and landscaping business I have built up with my partner Dearest Myrtle (ArchiTech Design). However, I have finally taken heed of the requests by Dearest and others and the club will reopen soon.
CB: Many regulars found the closure surprising, not to mention distressing! What caused the sudden closure?
TH: I understand that and let me say it was even more distressing for me. It was the culmination of many months of personal anguish at the way the club was being run and the attitude of my business partners at that time. I made the decision to close the club, but the abrupt and dramatic closure was not of my doing.
CB: Did you receive much response when Toby’s closed? Supportive? Negative… or?
TH: Yes I did… it was mostly supportive although I didn’t confide the personal reasons for the closure. I did all I could to make amends to the people most affected, including refunding store renters out of my own pocket for any rentals left active. Unfortunately, I too was banned from the sim so I was unable to offer more assistance.
CB: Will the build be familiar; i.e. similar to the original, or a new structure. If so, do you have any details about the build to share?
TH: Most of the club structure was returned to my Lost and Found after I was banned from the sim and I have been busy piecing together the old building and contents. Although this necessitates minor changes I have been as faithful to the most recent incarnation of the club as I can.
CB: Will you be personally managing/overseeing the club, as you did with the old Toby’s? Or will you be builder and patron only?
TH: I will be involved in the running of the club as will my partner Dearest Myrtle and my old friend (and ex-Juke DJ) Sundown Merchiston, and his partner Abby.
CB: Are any of the old Toby’s team reuniting to be part of the new club?
TH: I am hoping that many of the old DJs and Toby’s regulars will be part of the new club. I created the club at the beginning of 2007 and it has seen different team members over the years. The business partners involved in the club when it closed will not be involved in the new Toby’s though.
CB: Some residents were banned for various reasons in the old days. Will there be a clean slate for visitors or will the old bans be in effect?
TH: This goes back to my unhappiness with the way things were run in the latter days of the club. There will be no names on the ban list, no recriminations and no bad feelings. I want Toby’s to be a place where people come to enjoy good music and a friendly atmosphere. That was my intention when the doors first opened over six years ago and that’s still my vision.
CB: It’s definite that the club will reopen in April?
TH: Yes, that’s the plan, final date TBA. We are working to reconstruct it at the moment and Sundown is building a schedule of DJs.
It feels, in a way, like the clock stopped for three years and is now ticking again, like a heartbeat. Whether Juke Joint will rise again to its old glory remains to be seen – and in fact, old glory is not necessary. A great blues club is all I ask for. If anyone can deliver that, Toby can.