Noteworthy Venue reopens doors

BEDFORD – Kenny Fetterman pushed open a heavy door – the one plastered with bands’ stickers and “PUSH!” in black marker – Tuesday to reveal all 6,000 dimly-lit square feet of the Noteworthy Venue.

“I don’t want any signs,” he said outside the unmarked brick building, once a Buick garage. “It’s the kind of place where you have a special knock to get in, like: ‘No, man, that was

last week’s knock.”

This summer, Fetterman, 34, reopened the venue, which for years had served as downtown Bedford’s only under-21 rock scene.

From 2005 to its closing in 2009, the Noteworthy hosted an estimated 1,000 bands, including local ones with names like Burn

False Idols, Kamikabe and On The Run.

Teenagers packed the building for concerts every week, sometimes more often, as Fetterman worked to keep drugs and alcohol out.

Fetterman, a father who owns the building and its connected mini-mall, had envisioned a rock venue where kids could access a laid-back Christian message without forceful preaching.

“It was skateboarders, punks and emo kids,” said Josh Bollman, 24, who has spearheaded the effort to reopen the site. “But then you’d have a guy come in with a high school letterman jacket. … There was a diversity.”

For a time, it was the only local place of its kind between

Altoona and the Maryland border.

Parents thanked Fetterman for his work, he said, but not everyone was so pleased with the Noteworthy.

Neighbors complained of teenagers loitering in nearby alleys, and borough police issued three noise citations in a year.

Fetterman fought the citations – and, with the help of an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, defeated some as unconstitutional – but the work and expense of running a concert hall soon became too much to bear.

In 2009, he shut down the Noteworthy, sold much of the sound and lighting equipment and used the massive space for junk storage.

Two years later, Bollman and a circle of friends who remembered the glory days began pressing Fetterman to reopen the space.

“At the store, some dude would come up to me and be like, ‘Do you know what the Noteworthy meant to my childhood?'” Fetterman recalled. “[Bollman] started bugging me. I kind of just kept avoiding the subject, but he was persistent.”

Fetterman told Bollman and his friends they could use the venue if they cleaned and refurbished the interior. He expected just a handful of old regulars; instead, 15 to 20 people would arrive at a time, he said.

The interest was clear: The music scene in Bedford County had long thrived on a central, teen-friendly venue, Bollman explained. Without the Noteworthy and a few short-lived counterparts, it floundered.

“I’m in one of the local bands,” he said. “I saw a huge decline, a huge drop-off, in the number of bands, the diversity of music in the area, as soon as the venues were gone.”

In May, after months of work, the Noteworthy hosted its first concert in four years. At least 80 people attended, Fetterman said, leaving room to grow to the 300-person crowds that punk and metal bands once drew.

The second concert is set for Saturday afternoon. A flier lists seven bands, including an old favorite driving in from Johnstown.

“You have the new wave of music in this area, but you still have that kind of old Noteworthy flair,” Bollman said.

The venue isn’t what it used to be: Roughly a quarter of the space is walled off, and the once-impressive lighting and sound systems have yet to be replaced. Odds and ends, like a man-shaped punching bag, are scattered throughout side rooms.

But if the bands and their fans return, the Noteworthy will improve, Bollman and Fetterman said.

Booking acts was never a problem, they said – Bedford’s location at the intersection of the turnpike and an interstate highway allowed even major touring bands to stop for a show, their pay sometimes nothing more than a hotel room, a meal and a small cut of the cover charge.

“It’s better than sitting in the tour bus and twiddling their thumbs,” Fetterman said, laughing.