I have walked past that abandoned building often. The front glass door is locked, and the red paint chips off. My two older brothers and their friends used to frequent that building when it was an up-and-running venue. It was called Toast, located right off Main Street in Stroudsburg. It was also a coffee shop during the day. It wasn’t a name with a lot of poetic flair, but it fit.
My brothers and their friends played some of their first shows there. I was around 11 years old when they would go to this place that seemed mysterious. I always tried to go with them, and even though they would have accepted this with open arms, my mother always detested the idea. Rightfully so, for most responsible moms wouldn’t let their 11-year-old son walk into a punk rock venue where drugs and alcohol were probably abundant. The only visual memory I have of the place are the recordings my brothers have of shows there. It was before the time of smartphones (the early 2000s), so an old cam recorder was the only tool they had to visually capture these moments forever.
This vision of vacant buildings unfortunately seems to be a trend in the Poconos music scene. When I was growing up, first learning the bass guitar, it seemed that there was always a plethora of different shows to go to, and different bands to discover in the immediate area. There was this genuine excitement to meet new people through music, and to fathom what kind of potential this area may have had for a music scene. But now venues have been closed for years, and ex-musicians’ guitars are collecting dust from years of hiding under a bed.
I entered the music scene at a foundational age, and I have now seen it deteriorate to an empty version of what it used to be. This, however, is not only my story, but almost everybody’s story that grew up in the Poconos playing music.
I reached out to many people, via social media, to see if they were interested in telling their stories. Some people reached out to me, and I was glad to see some familiar faces ask if they could be a part of this. My older brother, Ethan, has had Sean Arawjo as his best friend for almost as long as I can remember. He is in some of those old home videos, walking around Toast, playing live music for the first time, so I knew he would be a great reference.
Check back for part 2 coming soon.
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