Just over a decade ago, you could have stopped at the Pit Stop for a quick lube. Now, in the very spot where your car would have gone on the lift, is a stage. “I used to run a pretty big operation here,” said owner Don Muckerhide of his automotive business. After it was the Pit Stop automotive shop, it was rehearsal space and then a recording studio. “Five CDs have been recorded here,” said Muckerhide. Of those CDs, one is Nina Violet’s “We’ll Be Alright,” that came out in September 2011. Nina Violet, whose music is tagged on her own site as “indie folk, martha’s vineyard, psych folk, West Tisbury,” is one of the Island’s most talented young artists, and is also Muckerhide’s daughter.
“For a brief period we had an engineer there named Matthew Cullen who did a lot of recording for us just gratis,” said Violet, “but we used it as rehearsal space for years and years before that.” The first party Muckerhide hosted at the Pit Stop in December 2011 was a CD release party for “We’ll Be Alright,” and the success of that party got everyone to thinking.
“We were cautious about inviting friends in,” said Violet.” My parents were instrumental in making it happen. We cleaned it up, rearranged everything, and figured out where to put the stage. We put the word out that we'd like to have an audience to hear the music we've been working on and to see how the space works as a venue. Our friends showed up with their whole extended families and it was a big success."
The success of the first party and the enthusiasm of the crowd has inspired volunteers of many backgrounds and skill sets. Willy Mason, who just recorded a new album of his own, is home until its release. “We’ve spent lot of time over the past couple of weeks trying this out and I don’t have any tour obligations until the new album comes out, which is great,” said Mason. "It is a wonderful thing to be a part of. It's been so much fun it's going to be hard to leave when the time comes."
This past Friday night, another evening of music and community took over the Pit Stop. Muckerhide sat in the back corner, a look of pride and joy on his face as his old shop filled with folks of all ages from little kids dashing through the rows of set up chairs to folks who couldn’t help but remark to each other how much the vibe felt like the days of the Wintertide Coffee House.
The Wintertide legend is hardly something unknown to these young musicians. “The first show I ever went to was at Wintertide, I was 10 years old,” said Mason. “I went home and started a band.”
Violet had the same experience, “I went to all the rock shows at the Wintertide. After seeing my first show there, I had a girl band within a week,” said Violet.
One reason given over and again about why the Pit Stop is so great, is that it is not a bar. “A bar scene is a scene,” said Violet. “If you’re not playing something that’s meant to get people to dance and drink, you don’t count on getting much respect. I prefer to see music in a cozy environment, especially original music. In a showcase like the Pit Stop, the music is not an afterthought. There’s not a TV with the game on, there’s not other motives of drinking. It’s purely a motive of those gathering to hear the music. That kind of listening environment is conducive to an attentive audience, which makes bands excited to play there.” Oddly enough, cozy is the perfect word to describe this once-was fix-it-shop. There’s big windows, dim lighting, plants, old antiques and walls plastered with years of concert posters of Violet’s, Mason’s and all the other talented young musicians already involved with Pit Stop.
The fact that there’s no alcohol also means the Pit Stop can be an all-age venue, which is something everyone involved feels is important. “You have to have something here as a young person or you can get into trouble with drugs,” said Muckerhide. Unofficial staff members keep an eye on what’s going on to make sure nothing goes on that would jeopardize the space. “So far so good,” said Mason.
“If you give young people the idea that a place is here for them too and that it’s their responsibility to make sure it stays that way, most of the kids on this Island are going to take that and go with it,” said Violet. “I have to say I’m really proud of my community, of this community that’s come together around the Pit Stop right now. They’ve been really respectful and wonderful.”
The big question is what has to happen so that the Pit Stop doesn’t meet the same fate as the Wintertide. “The group is working to come up with a mission statement,” said Muckerhide. “We’re hoping to come up with some kind of membership or non-profit situation so we can cover the costs and maybe even pay the musicians.”
“We are trying to create a business that can support itself,” said Mason. “We’ve got some financial hurdles to get over to get to that point. The Wintertide closed because they couldn’t pay rent, which was a travesty. We intend to come up with a way to make this sustainable. “
In the meantime, the group hopes to have some sort of event every weekend. “We’re pretty much open to anything within reason and we’ll do what we can to keep everything up to a high standard” said Violet.
This Saturday, Todd Follansbee is putting together an old fashioned West Tisbury musicale. This will be a jam such as many have attended for years and will be multi generational with all kinds of music. All are welcome to come and the list of players currently includes: Deb, Katie, and Jack Mayhew, Mark Mazer, Peter Huntington, Liz Bradley, Tom Hodgson, Nancy Jephcote and maybe Paul and Brian of the Elbows, Tristan Israel, Michael West, Dan Waters.
For now, said Mason, “The most important thing is support of the community. If people turn up at shows, it shows that there’s a need for this and that we need to keep it going. We want it to be a place that everyone feels equally responsible for and that’s just a positive place for people to come.”