The old saying “all good things must come to an end” has once again been proven to be true. The Boneyard Bar & Grill will officially close its doors this month.
Known as one of the best (and one of the only) spots for live original music in Atlantic City, The Boneyard opened its doors to the public in 2010. Tucked in that tricky to find spot known as Gordon’s Alley, artists that graced the stage here ran the gamut from punk rock to hip-hop and all points in between. The Boneyard wasn’t so much about concentrating on one genre, instead its focus was on music written by those who performed it. In a town weighed down by cover bands, tribute acts and Michael Jackson impersonators, the scene at The Boneyard was a refreshing change of pace, a spot that welcomed and encouraged artistic freedom and creativity.
Though the Boneyard was one of the few spots in town that showcased original music, it was not the only game in town. Its next door neighbor Le Grand Fromage also featured live original music, but shuttered its doors recently as well.
“Both The Boneyard and Le Grand Fromage supported original bands and kept the dream alive by providing a place for touring acts to perform without pre-sales and guaranteed numbers,” says Jerry Ryan, a concert promoter who put on many events at The Boneyard over the years.
Ryan’s “Elephants for Autism” festival was an annual event at the club that raised thousands of dollars for charity.
“I held the first four Elephants for Autism festivals at The Boneyard and Le Grand Fromage. But after the Fromage closed down, I moved it to The Watering Hole in Mays Landing,” Ryan says.
Though he may have moved his festival, Ryan has nothing but positive memories about both the bar and the staff who ran it. “I have the utmost respect for the owners for allowing us a place to showcase these bands and for sharing our vision for so long.”
The closing saddens many but at the same time is not a total surprise. In the opinion of Ryan, things peaked in the Atlantic City original music scene somewhere around 2012.
“Nothing tops 2012 in my opinion,” he says. “That was a golden year with Paul Brown of 1878, Danie Marie of Little House Booking and myself booking full time and collectively working together to bring in amazing bands from around the country. We kept that up till about 2014 or 2015 before branching out to work with other venues.”
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While the glory days may be in the past, The Boneyard is set to go out with a bang, with final shows planned for Friday and Saturday Oct. 6 and 7. These shows will feature a multitude of bands, each of whom have a history with the club. Both indoor and outdoor stages will be utilized. Friday’s show begins at 6 p.m. while Saturday is an all-day affair, beginning at 1 p.m. and running until midnight.
One of the band’s that is set to appear at the final Boneyard concert event is The Division, a group that has built a fanbase in South Jersey thanks to clubs like The Boneyard. The band’s singer
has more than a few fond memories of the club. “The Boneyard has always been a mainstay of the A.C. and South Jersey music scene. It was the very first A.C. venue The Division ever played, and maybe even the first outside of the Greater Philadelphia area,” he says. “
And while Wiseley is sad to see the venue close, he offers hope that the music will indeed live on. “Losing a local venue is always a shame and a blow to the scene, but the strength of a local music scene isn’t just its venues, but also its participants. The scene in South Jersey is rich in great musicians and promoters. We’re very thankful to be involved in it.”
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With The Boneyard shutting its doors, one is left to wonder what will become of Atlantic City’s live original music scene. The good news is, it’s not going away just yet.
“The scene is far from dead though. It’s just that now it’s not limited to one or two spots basically,” Ryan says.
“Watering Hole in Mays Landing is an amazing venue, and Pitney Pub in Galloway supports original music from time to time as well, but Boneyard and Le Grand Fromage were the heart and soul of the local original music scene.”
Ryan is not the only one in the local music scene that feels this way either. Stephen Weiss was the sole promoter booking bands at the venue for the last year or so, and echoes the sentiment.
“At the height, the Boneyard was THE place; it just seemed like the scene was dying,” Weiss says.
“We didn’t want to stop doing music, so we decided to go to Proud Mary’s and see if we could start doing shows there. I believe that Proud Mary’s is the future of live original music in Atlantic City. The second floor is in the process of getting done which will put it on par with The Boneyard as far as size is concerned, it’s right down the street from the new Stockton campus and there is space outside for bands as well as inside. By next summer I want all three stages going. We have a big show coming in on Oct. 13, and that show is going to be the ‘welcome to the new scene’ show for Atlantic City. It’s going to be insane.”