1904 Music Hall: The Day the Music Died

1904 Music Hall: The Day the Music Died

Words by Amiyah Golden


The essence of artistry resides in various nooks and crannies around the city. With spaces like 1904 being a pillar of support in the ever-growing Jacksonville music scene and beyond for the last decade, the time has come for the business to transition into a new chapter. With owners making the call to focus their time and energy into their sister business, Underbelly, we commemorate the impact this establishment has had on music and the community.


Three friends purchased a building at 19 Ocean Street Downtown in the fall of 2011. As musicians themselves they were totally familiar with that constant hunger to continually perfect one’s craft. They were happy to aid in the famine by opening 1904 as a beacon for fellow artists. 


A rehearsal space eventually morphed into the hosting of several world renowned artists with names such as Big Boi, Beabadoobee and Lettuce performing there. With 1904 creating an experience that encourages intimate moments between fans and the artists, it was my personal treasured place to see some familiar faces and unearth unbelievable talent. 


I was able to talk to 1904 co-owner Jason Hunnicutt about the impact the venue has had on the Jacksonville community. Since its opening in March 2012, 1904 Music Hall has hosted hundreds of thousands of listeners, bands, artists and shows, and became a shining beacon for the local music scene. 


Big name artists weren’t the only ones who reserved the right to perform on the black stage. Hunnicut and fellow co-owner Duane DeCastro encouraged the expression of local artists.


“Our philosophy was anybody can play here once,” said Hunnicutt. “Being open and saying ‘yes’ to anybody’s project was the glue.” 


Genres weren’t limited when it came to performances. 


“We [would] book a Polka band,” he said. “We would try anything if it works.”


This credence is what rocketed me into my love for metal music. I remember finding an ad for a show on Instagram one day, and not knowing what to expect I walked into 1904 with an open mind and walked out with a whole new appreciation for the style. And for the next couple of weekends that year, I would find myself in the middle of a mosh pit, jamming out to a band I discovered that night. Allowing me to become immersed in an experience exacerbated that devotion. 


It wasn’t just the fans who felt it: 1904 Music Hall inspired a new wave of comradery in the Jacksonville arts scene. 


“We would have three or four local bands [play] who might not even know each other and now they’re playing multiple shows together in other cities,” Hunnicutt added. 


Hunnicutt and DeCastro’s support of local expression allowed many artists to get a feel for performing. WIth a setting that emboldens the artist/fan connection, it was the perfect place to venture out as a fresh artist. I was able to witness friends and peers perform their first headline shows there. It was always a beautiful experience to see the city come out to support one of their own. 


I was also always able to see people feel free, outwardly expressing their individual personas. 1904 Music Hall empowered those who were “different” — creating a safe space for people to just be themselves without fear of judgment.


Hunnicutt reflects on seeing the blossoming of bands who graced the stage in the early days of 1904 and are now touring the world and headlining festivals, specifically recalling, the punk band Turnstile and electro-funk duo The Floozies. 


I was curious who Hunnicutt may have “fangirled” over, as he was blessed to work with a multitude of artists. He shared that his personal favorite was Dennis Chambers, the drummer who worked with James Brown and the Parliament-Funkadelic. Hunnicutt was able to observe Chambers’ supergroup project as well. Another favorite of his was the jazz band Lettuce.


Hunnicutt will miss 1904 being open for events such as Art Walk and their infamous New Year’s Eve Party with bands like the Main Squeeze headlining the celebration. 


Several “Indie Nights” and metal shows later, I am now able to experience the bittersweet journey with Hunnicut and the overall legacy of 1904 Music Hall. Although, I’m sad to see 1904 close their doors to musical jams, it isn’t the end, as Hunnicutt also owns Underbelly, home a plethora of shows and is known for their spin on some BBQ favorites.


Hunnicutt will keep ownership of the event space, as well, and plans on turning it into a late night eatery similar to his restaurant, Ocean Street Tacos with his executive chef from Spliff’s Gastropub working on a fun, new menu. 


So fret no more as the talent of the city still will still be able to thrive down the street at Underbelly on Bay Street with 1904 still standing as a pillar in the city.


I’m so excited to continue to see the growth of creativity with the backing of Hunnicutt and many others who support the beauty of the arts. 


I hope you meet me in a mosh someday at Underbelly and revel in the sounds of passion.