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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Smokes and Sounds: Cigar Lounge of Starkville offers music free of charge

Dalton Healy | Courtesy Photo

Local musicians performed at Cigar Lounge of Starkville’s outdoor stage during Bulldog Bash weekend. The owners of CLS allows patrons to watch bands take its stage for tips in place of a cover charge.

The Cigar Lounge of Starkville is the refashioned product of visionary local owners Dalton Healy and Auston Nolan.  In March of 2012 Nolan and Healy, who worked at Starkville Stogies beforehand, took over the store.  Located at 100 Maxwell St. in the heart of Starkville’s Cotton District, the new owners transformed the store into the Cigar Lounge of Starkville (CLS) that now plays and important role in Starkville’s live music scene.  

The shift in ownership brought significant changes, including a nearly sevenfold increase in cigar inventory and a now-thriving live music scene. Healy said the newly-built stage in front of the shop is part of efforts they have made to support Starkville’s local talent and the live-music scene at CLS began at his former store. 

“Music was started by me while it was Starkville Stogies, just on cobble stone and that was it.  We only did it four or five times during that time.  We put the stage in this spring break explicitly for music,” he said.

Healy said he and Nolan intentionally do their best to give all Starkville musicians a voice. 

“Local music is kind of tough in a small town just to get a gig.  We like to bargain with musicians.  We try not to say no to anybody,” he said. “Supporting local musicians is not about trying to get the best. It is about the opportunity.”

CLS hosts open-mic nights on Thursdays, which allow musicians to come and showcase their talent in a public and open environment on a stage in the middle of the Cotton District.  CLS’s shows are not only highly visible but also free to the public. 

Healy and Nolan both said they never intend to charge guests for the live music they support, but only ask the audience to tip as it feels inclined.

“We are trying to do what we think is truly supporting local music … We don’t charge cover,” Healy said. “Not being forced to charge cover (frees the listener to) tip the band directly. Tipping actually helps support local music. If you want to support local music, come here and tip them.”

In light of the recent decrease in live music at the fountain in the Cotton District, the CLS’s free, unselective shows are a breath of fresh air to local musicians and Starkville’s music scene as a whole. Healy expressed the sentiment that bands should be given a chance to thrive, even if they are undiscovered and lacking equipment.  

“We like to put fate into the band’s and the people’s hands,” he said.  

Showing the bands in public on weekends without demanding payment, allows bands to gain a following  while tips come from the crowd intentionally and go directly to the band’s benefit.  

Elizabeth Bounds, a Starkville resident and frequenter of CLS’s music events, said she appreciates both the tunes and the atmosphere.  

“I started coming up here before I knew any of (the owners) because I love live music, and it’s a great outdoor environment, and you don’t have to pay cover which is really nice,” Bounds said.  

Local musician Chase Floyd, of the band Chase and the Chicken Coop, performs at CLS. He said his experience with their music scene benefited him and gave him opportunities to showcase his music.  

“I came and played an open-mic night and played a lot — this was the first Thursday after I moved in,” he said. “I played with the guys and had a great time.”

CLS takes a step forward to promote the local music scene in Starkville every weekend. CLS hosted a number of diverse bands during last weekend’s Bulldog Bash to complement the main stage performers, Chris Young and The Black Crowes.  

Floyd said Healy and Nolan’s work at CLS provides a relaxed openness to Starkville’s music scene every weekend. 

“They are really getting people to enjoy live music,” Floyd said.

The stage may be small, but its existence as a pedestal for any musician gives it a voice larger than its stature suggests. 

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Smokes and Sounds: Cigar Lounge of Starkville offers music free of charge