CITY LIFE

Published on March 19th, 2013 | by Katy Evans

28

Rock in a hard place: Tacoma’s struggling independent music scenes

All photography by Scott Haydon, all photographs feature Tacoma shows.

Maybe it’s me: I’m older, I put much more value in a good night’s sleep than I used to. But maybe something beyond my inevitable aging is happening, because Tacoma’s indie music scene just isn’t what it used to be.

Pickwick, photo by Scott Haydon

Pickwick, photo by Scott Haydon

For more than half a century, independent and live music in Tacoma has had many heydays, some of them brilliant pan flashes, some of them evolving effectively over years.

Even just ten years ago, there were many small venues where local bands could find audiences all over the South Sound, and it used to be considered a boon that a band touring the Northwest could book upwards of six successful shows from Portland to all points north. What has changed since then? Turns out, independent music has changed a lot in ten years and evolving redefinitions of music success have some specific reverberations in Tacoma.

We know that recorded music sales have shrunk hugely ($27.8 billion in 1999 to $16.5 billion in 2012) and music is now a different kind of product: artists must tour to survive and find relevance. While touring, artists need to navigate a complicated new system of online branding, retail sales, blackout radius clauses, hall fees for selling their merchandise at shows, and other profit snatching hazards. Bands at any level of success are using management to deal with these and other challenging aspects of a shifting industry.

This change marginalizes – penalizes, really – areas that can’t guarantee predictable profits. Increasingly, “secondary” markets like Tacoma are seen more as competition than as a complement to “primary” markets like Seattle.

But beyond these issues, music exposure and discovery has become easier and easier as we find ourselves in an unprecedented era of quantity and quality, thanks to the internet.  Bands seem to be everywhere. But why aren’t they playing in Tacoma?

I’m not the only Tacoman who wishes for more and better music here: I talked to five local music professionals to see how they’ve navigated the changes in the business and to get some expert perspective on steps forward.

Adam Ydstie, Brian Skiffington, Aaron Stevens, Kayla Stewart, and Zach Powers have all been actively involved in live music production in and around Tacoma for years. Adam and Kayla run booking for local production company The Warehouse; Brian has been organizing all-ages shows for local and touring hardcore, punk, and metal bands for more than a decade; Zach is a hip-hop emcee who has performed and booked shows throughout the Northwest for the past seven years; and Aaron is the programs manager at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts and a local music supporter for more than 15 years.

Each has a unique experience interacting with music but regardless of perspective, all five agree that there are key issues impeding the growth of healthy independent music scenes in Tacoma

The Challenge of Place and Space

Adam, Aaron, Brian, Kayla, and Zach agree: Tacoma is stuck between a rock and a hard place (Seattle and Portland/Olympia) and beyond our geographic constriction, we have no venues available to host the kinds of shows that could revitalize an independent music culture.

Says Kayla Stewart, “My biggest challenge now is working to rebuild the local music scene. The era of plentiful all-ages venues in Tacoma is gone. People need to leave their egos and resumes at the door and come together, throw and play free shows, and book bands even if they might not have a huge following. If there was a time to take a risk, this is it.”

It makes sense – if you were a kid like me, as much as you loved the bands that rolled through town, it was the venue that defined the era. All the way back to the World Community Theater where bands like Nirvana debuted to Tacomans in 1987, to Hell’s Kitchen, Club Impact, and Fife’s Java Jump Cafe, spaces shaped scenes. And with a vibrant scene, regardless of genre, comes more attention and a willingness to engage from both local and touring performers.

Four on the Floor, photo by Scott Haydon

Four on the Floor, photo by Scott Haydon

Brian Skiffington’s experience was much the same as mine: “Growing up, my friends and I had to carpool to Seattle to see every show. With hardcore and punk music, where I cut my teeth, most of our shows happened off the beaten path, in basements, garages, warehouses. When I went on tour and saw how different scenes functioned it showed me that if I just find a place for bands to play, they will come.”

Scene-building is crucial, and you can’t do it in a void, hence our primary problem: “Venues, venues, venues. I feel like the venues are always changing, closing, ‘under new management,’ etcetera,” laments Aaron Stevens. “It makes consistency very difficult. I can use Broadway Center venues but that comes with union labor costs that are hard to manage for smaller shows.”

Everyone echoes the same concern. From Brian: “The biggest challenge right now is lack of realistic venues. I have access to spaces for smaller shows, I can find places to do shows that will draw 25 to 150 people, but beyond that Tacoma has nothing. I couldn’t bring a 400 or 800 person show here. The only venues that can handle that kind of crowd either have completely whack vibes, don’t do regular shows, or cost too much. It’s simple economics. If a Tacoma venue can give a better offer, Tacoma would get the tour instead of Seattle. Until there are better rooms to play in Tacoma, this will not happen.”

And there are other issues that complicate our development.

The Frustrating Nuances

Tacoma has a reputation, and it’s not what one would call positive. Aaron explains, “There are too many artists and managers to count who have told me they won’t play Tacoma.”

“Despite our place in music history and the famous musicians we’ve produced, Tacoma is still not seen as credible music community,”states Kayla Stewart; and Adam Ydstie shares further, “Performers don’t believe Tacoma turnout will be great, and turnout is one of The Warehouse’s biggest challenges. People tell us that they love what we do and that we need to keep doing it. We book quality shows that would sell out in Seattle, and still people complain or don’t come.”

Our experts, for the most part, agree the perception from outsiders is warranted. “There’s a lack of interest in local music in Tacoma’s youth and young adults.” shares Zach Powers, “We have a great deal of solid local music here for a city of 200k and we’ve been working for years to try to hip people to it but haven’t really created momentum – in hip-hop we’ve taken steps backwards, actually.”

They Physics, photo by Scott Haydon

They Physics, photo by Scott Haydon

This lack of reliable audiences is traceable to our lack of reliable venues. But its not just the audiences we can’t rely on – Aaron has concerns about some of our local performers too. “I don’t think the audience is given nearly enough respect in Tacoma by the artists. There’s also not enough competition to really push us as artists to be excellent.”

These promoters are all considering lots of moving parts as they try to find ways to maintain and grow music appreciation in town but there is a specific Tacoma population whose lack of engagement is a truly significant problem.

Youth of Today

Adam, Kayla, Aaron, Brian, and Zach can all trace their passion for music to their early teenage years. I’m sure many of us can remember similar moments of discovery: the first time one of our friends told us they were in a band, when we realized that there was more to music than the radio, and that the coffee shop downtown let bands play at an open mic. All of a sudden there was a way for music to be a part of our real, everyday lives, and most of us got hooked for life.

As Kayla puts it, “I feel like it is my unwritten duty as a music lover to increase local access to live music and help it thrive as much as possible; It just seems natural.” If you want to grow scenes, you can’t ignore the importance of that moment. You have to give the kids places to see good music, and places where they can play.

“Growing up in Minnesota I remember going to punk shows when I was 16 and how impactful in my own musical growth and personal expression,” Adam remembers. “I’ve seen the bar scene take hold of the scene and it robs younger artists of experiences they deserve. It ultimately hurts the overall scene when the younger generation can’t play shows with seasoned bands or be inspired by local, independent artists.”

Kellie Schaefer performs at a Warehouse house show. Photo by Scott Haydon

Kellie Schaefer performs at a Warehouse house show. Photo by Scott Haydon

I asked all five which bands they’d like to see come through Tacoma and although there were lots of great suggestions, Zach took it a step further and wanted to know, more importantly “who do students at Stadium, PLU, SOTA, Curtis, and TCC want to come to Tacoma?”

Further, I wonder what students at these schools are already in amazing bands that we have never seen?

Silver Linings and Solutions

I swear its not just one depressing, overwhelming scene-strangling miasma here in Tacoma. Kayla, Adam, Brian, Aaron, and Zach had positive observations and suggestions too. Specifically, they all appreciate collaboration and hospitality and these traits inspire their methods in organizing shows in Tacoma.

“I am a touring musician, so I like to treat bands and create shows that I would want to play.” states Brian. “I try my best to pair touring bands with local bands they fit with musically and philosophically. Even at the worst shows I’ve played, if the other bands are great and have good attitudes you end up making friends and finding a floor to crash on. Being nice to bands helps. Offer them a place to crash. Get a crock pot and make some soup. All the sudden there is a bridge from Tacoma to Dallas that wasn’t there before and a network is formed.”

Kayla agrees, “Despite hard times, there needs to be more attention to detail and hospitality. As someone who has experience in both scenes, respect and personability is something many venues in Seattle lack, and is a tactic Tacoma can use to level some of the playing field.”

Rockwell Powers (aka Zach Powers) performs at First Night. Photo by Scott Haydon

Rockwell Powers (aka Zach Powers) performs at First Night. Photo by Scott Haydon

Beyond respecting and caring for bands, Aaron and Adam emphasized the need to get organized and work together. “There is a lot of disorganization in town.” says Aaron “I don’t want the Tacoma perception to be that we can’t get our shit together and be organized and professional. If we are going to change the perception, we all, from the Tacoma Art Museum to The Warehouse, need to be a part of the conversation.”

Adam further emphasized the role collaboration already plays. “We’d love to see all the venues and promoters in Tacoma working together. We’ve loved our partnerships with Broadway Center, The Space, Feather & Oar, Andy Hyppa, O’Malley’s, Metronome, Urban Grace, Cadence Music Management, Artist Home, Barefoot Collective, MLK Ballet, Peabody Waldorf, and all the people who have opened their homes for shows.”

And despite Tacoma’s internal issues, bands are still touring and they still need a place to play. Brian experiences constant requests for shows that he just can’t meet. “These days I have to confine [booking help] to friends and friends of friends. I bet I get ten emails or phone calls a week asking for shows in Tacoma.”

All these promoters have found ways to embrace and overcome many of Tacoma’s challenges. The Warehouse is established on the premise of finding creative solutions for lacking venues; they will book shows in homes, backyards, restaurants, really anywhere that’s willing.

Although there are ways to create amazing musical experiences in Tacoma, we can’t ignore the lack of reliable, larger venues. Brian and Kayla agree that Tacoma needs an aesthetically neutral, mid-size venue willing to book in multiple genres, and offer all-ages shows.

“Somebody with some energy, time, and money needs to create a legal operating venue. Something like Neumos on Capitol Hill,” Brian explains. “If Tacoma could offer a cheaper room, with the same capacity, we could pull some serious tours here. Even a room in Tacoma with a 250 capacity could turn heads. The only rooms in Tacoma that could cater to this kind of show are more concerned with ladies night and cover bands.”

Plug In and Head Out

Hopefully you agree with Aaron that “we shouldn’t have to drive to Seattle every weekend in order to see a good show.” But what can you do? Adam has suggestions:

“Fans need to speak up, fight for their artists to come to Tacoma. Give shout outs on Facebook, Twitter, send emails, connect them to anyone doing music promotion in Tacoma. We’re a united front dedicated to bringing the best music possible to Tacoma as well as developing a place for local talent to sprout up. Hands down Tacoma is worth it. No question. We’re awesome.”

It’s true – one of my favorite Seattle bands, “Don’t Talk to the Cops” retweeted my mention of them a while back and with just a little overly enthusiastic Twitter prodding on my part, The Warehouse connected with their manager and they’ll be playing Tacoma this summer.

Ivan and Alyosha, photo by Scott Haydon

Ivan and Alyosha, photo by Scott Haydon

And for all of you who regularly get out to shows in Tacoma, pat yourself on the back: “I am continually surprised at how respectful the crowds are at shows in Tacoma,” says Adam. “They actually listen to the music. Every time I go to a show in Seattle I realize how spoiled we are. Sometimes I can’t even hear the music over all the people talking amongst themselves. I don’t get why people pay $20 per person to scream at each other over music.”

We also have great events that demonstrate Tacoma’s potential in cultivating a music scene. Kayla points out that “First Night felt like a music utopia. All of the groups involved in that event are people I consider major players (The Broadway Center, SOTA, The Warehouse, Campus MLK), and same with the Fall Free For All. We already have the utopia in small bursts at these various events, we just need to find a viable way to make it last year-round.”

Its a big, complicated challenge but one that many committed Tacomans are investigating right now. Music scenes are more than just a fun opportunity on a Saturday night – it’s serious business and its cultivation deserves real consideration. Just consider a recent report from the city of Austin, Texas “The measurable economic and fiscal impact of music in Austin is significant, as more than $616 million in economic activity, almost 11,200 jobs, and over $11 million in City tax revenues can be attributed to influence of music on the local economy.” Investing in local music scenes can have significant economic benefits.

Koomaniacs perform at First Night, photo by Scott Haydon

Koomaniacs perform at First Night, photo by Scott Haydon

I, for one, am keeping my chin up and looking forward to big things, especially from Aaron Stevens, the team at The Warehouse, Brian Skiffington, and Zach Powers. Now until we have a Neumos of our own, I’ll see you at the next house show!

Tacoma Recommends…

Not sure where to start with local music? Luckily, with the power of our experts combined, we have a truly comprehensive list to get you started.

Brian recommends you check out Lozen, Red Hex, Porcelain God, and Criminal Code.

Aaron says you have to listen to up-and-coming singer-songwriter Ricky Reyes.

Kayla and Adam both love Kye Alfred Hillig, and Kayla also recommends Luke Stevens, Grace Youn, and of course Vicci Martinez.

Adam has quite a few more artists you should check out: Rockwell Powers, Roswell, Shogun Barbie, Stripe Valley Sway, Colin Scott Reynolds (I Low), The Owl Parliament, A Leaf, Apartment Lights, and Tacoma Urban Orchestra, and both Adam and Aaron love Amelia Saakian.

Finally, make sure and explore Zach’s recommendations: ILLFIGHTYOU, Goldfinch, John Crown, Bruce LeRoy, and The Rusty Cleavers.


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About the Author

Founder and Co-Managing Editor at Post Defiance, Katy writes and fundraises for Tacoma. Follow her @katynicoud.



28 Responses to Rock in a hard place: Tacoma’s struggling independent music scenes

  1. Angela Jossy says:

    Every time I see the vacant space on 6th Avenue that Chopstix moved out of I think this would be the perfect music venue for someone like The Warehouse to do their shows. Why not contact the owner and see if you can take temporary occupancy of it? Or look for an investor or a group of investors to help develop a business plan?

    • Katy Evans says:

      Totally agree, Angela – that’s just how I look at Chopsticks (and Gruv, and other spaces) too, I will pass along the advice!

  2. Betsy Erickson says:

    If you want a medium sized venue, check our Urban Grace. It has GREAT accustics, is in the Theater District, nice 1920’s look, low cost, and seats over 800 people.

  3. I was disappointed that no mention was made toward Louie G’s Pizza. Louie is the hardest working supporter of new music groups in the Puget Sound area and is always all-ages on the best stage in the region. Another apparent missive is the work that NWCZradio(.com) puts into supporting the Tacoma music scene and exclusively plays local music by local artists.

    I guess this just further illustrates the disconnect between different circles in the music scene. Nonetheless, the Lush Tones have found an incredible spirit of comraderie among most of the acts with which we have shared a stage.

    The greatest problem in the local entertainment industry that I’ve considered is that the culture of people attendingshows has drastically declined in the past 5 years; not because the qality of entertainment has declined, but the culture of social entertainment media has increased. I have heard s much as, “Why am I going to pay $10 for a show plus gas money when I can watch something on netfix or hula for 8?” and “I’m not gonna risk going out because its dangerous to go anywhere at night.” more than once. With the overwhelming amount of availability of access to online media, it’s easy to lose the experience of live music to the convenience of a couple of mouse clicks. This is the hardest problem to solve:
    Getting people out and socializing in person again.

    • Katy Evans says:

      Hi Andrew, I am really happy you brought these additional resources to my attention. One of the reasons we worked on this article was exactly to make these connects. I completely agree with your assessment that just getting people out and socializing is a really hard problem to solve.

      I would love to see a lot more interactivity between the kinds of scenes developing in places like Louie G’s, Jazzbones, and the Swiss with other independent music in Tacoma. Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. Kevin H says:

    Great article… I agree, we need more well established venues, and a good portion of these need to be appropriate all age venues.

    If I may add two cents on the Tacoma bands that need to be scoped out, I’d throw in ‘Not From Brooklyn”, ‘The Fun Police’, ‘Big Wheel Stunt Show’, ‘SleepyPilot’, ‘Motopony’, and ‘Blanco Bronco’.

    • Katy Evans says:

      Thanks, Kevin – I love all those bands too! I appreciate all the recommendations we’ve been getting in response to this article.

  5. Your article has made quite the buzz on Facebook. I am the host of The Northwest Convergence Zone (www.nwconvergencezone.com). We are a local show about the local scene. Our show is heard on http://www.nwczradio.com as well as 17 stations across the U.S. I would like to invite you to come in and talk about your article, how you see the Tacoma scene etc. It is a topic we discuss almost weekly and it would be great to have you join us for a discussion from your article’s point of view. If you are interested please send me an email to nwczradio@gmail.com and we’ll get that set up. Thanks so much and looking forward to hearing back from you and hopefully having you on the show.

  6. On behalf of my label, our partners and all the hard working musicians in T’Town…

    You obviously aren’t out and about because the Tacoma music scene is thriving! It disgusts me that you would put out such an un-informed blog.

    Only a few of the artists you mentioned are even recognizable. New venues are emerging…more collaboration is occurring and the Tacoma scene is actually envied by MANY Seattle artists and inspiring more community rather than a competitive environment.

    It is incumbent on all of us to foster informed dialogue…

    The good thing about your blog is that it reinforces the fact that those of us who see the BIG PICTURE are contributing to history being made!

    If you want to open real dialogue…host a round table discussion with:

    ORGANIZATIONS
    Maurice the Fish Records
    NWCZ Radio
    Sweat Box Entertainment
    SetList Management
    Tin Star Records
    Flat Hat Productios

    VENUES
    Louie Gs
    Jazzbones

    ARTISTS
    SweetKiss Momma
    Kim Archer
    Big Wheel Stunt Show
    Tin Man
    Aces Up
    Sevens Revenge

    …just a small sample of the industry professionals making history in Tacoma!

    Sincerely caring about the scene in T’Town,

    Raymond Hayden
    CEO, Maurice the Fish Records

    • Katy Evans says:

      Hi Raymond, thanks for speaking up on behalf of Maurice the Fish Records, and I am excited to learn more about the other organizations, venues, and artists who are invested in making live music thrive in Tacoma. (I’m a big fan of Kim Archer.)

      I am definitely remiss in making this a much wider generational review of Tacoma scenes. The five people I spoke with are all over 25 and under 40 so I definitely missed out on information from people on either ends of that split.

      I would love to hear more from you about how promotion and engagement goes for you in town, the kinds of audiences you connect with, and the additional audiences you would like to be more involved with.

    • Mike says:

      What we don’t need are more overly confrontational trypes sending some poor example of passive aggression.
      As a recent transplant to this area I too have been appalled, but rather as a result of limited, Artists, Venues and the lack of social community involvement in them.
      Ceo’s of record labels are not what is needed here. They will just send Artists into a higher grossing venues as most often occurs.
      We also can do with less CEO’s of Record Labels chiming in to bolster their own agendas.
      As a consumer and patron I will be sure to mention Raymond Hayden CEO, Maurice the Fish Records and check the association Venues and Artists may have with this Executive.
      If this is nothing but a blatant use of hyperbole I would be surprised.
      Next time shoot yourself in the foot RATHER THAN SHOOTING THE MESSENGER, She’s doing her best with what is readily visible and availasble to the average patron. Perhaps you Executives should spend more time in the trenches learning what is needed to connect with the public, rather than attacking them for their perception.

  7. Glen C says:

    You should totally go on the Northwest Convergence Zone to discuss the Tacoma scene. I think it would be a great segment.

  8. Mark Smith says:

    Wow, as someone who’s been a part of the Tacoma music scene for 25 years, this really doesn’t represent what’s going on, what’s gone on, or likely where the scene will go. Have you actually been to shows aside from the few people you interviewed? I’m not judging their place in any scene, but there’s a LOT going on that you’re painfully missing out on.

    Incidentally, Community World Theater and not “World Community Theater.” I was there for the Nirvana show you mentioned.

    Tacoma has always had a unique place in the NW music scene, and I’m proud of it. In the last year, I’ve played the meatmarket bars on 6th Ave, some cool newer bars, First Night on the main stage, the Tacoma Dome (lol), the Opening of the Car Museum, tons of cool house parties and smaller shows, and it’s as real of a scene as it’s ever been. The real problem is not Tacoma (ffs). It’s that people everywhere don’t go to shows and live life apart from their technology anymore. In this case, it isn’t a good thing; it brings us a viewpoint like this article: life half lived. Go to some shows and rewrite this in 3 months. Live the dirty, bluecollar, always honest Tacoma scene for a bit and quit trying to make it something fake and pretty. We’re damned proud of our grit, and frak anyone who wastes the time to judge when they could be living.

    • Katy Evans says:

      Thanks for the heads up, Mark, and I must apologize for the typo (we’re having web issues and the fact that I can’t fix it is driving me crazy – you are definitely not the first person to point it out!)

      I appreciate hearing from quite a few people that the problem is that people just aren’t going to shows. I am one of those people who doesn’t spend as much time at live shows as I used to and there are some specific reasons.

      Not to get too personal and specific, but here goes: I don’t really like just seeing any band at a bar, and I really want to see some specific acts take Tacoma seriously and play here. I don’t need live music as a discovery venue – I need it as fulfillment of something I’ve already found online and now want to see in real life. That diametric isn’t exclusive – I do love discovering new music live too, but it just usually is the other way around for me now.

      Incidentally, what is your band? And thank you again so much for sharing your perspective.

  9. Paul Sawtelle says:

    Dear Katy

    Enjoyed your article but I don’t think we travel in the same crowds. The talent playing the big rooms around here, I feel is quite good. I do agree with you that Tacoma has to do a better job with the venues that are available and there certainly could be more places to perform. True there are plenty of very good bands out there to fill them.

    With that said , from what I have seen, the quality of the live music going on around Tacoma is as good as anything going on in any major city across the US. Jazz Bones, Louie G’s, and the Swiss seem to have no problems having bands perform that play only original tunes such as Sweet Kiss Momma, Perry Acker, Ben Union, Kim Archer,Tin Man , Bump Kitchen, The Fat Tones, and The Lush Tones to name a few. All drawing good crowds, who purchase their CD’s and enjoy their shows. Why was there no mention of these groups? Or interviews with the owners of these clubs?

    In closing, keep up the good work because you are right about the music business being not as easy as most people think, the more dialog we have the better. I am a veteran musician who has had the privilege of performing all over the US and Europe. I have over 35 years experience playing a sax , between time in the studio and live performance jobs I have all the work I can handle. Most of the jobs I play are with some of the groups I listed which I think are very good, and are writing new music, because of their talent, they are able to get it out there for people to hear.

    Again thanks for the article , and hope you can get out to some of the clubs mentioned to hear some of the best music around here .

    Thanks

    Paul Sawtelle

    • Katy Evans says:

      Thanks, Paul – I’m really inspired by the number of responses and recommendations we’re receiving because of this article. And thank you for your perspective and contributions to music in Tacoma!

  10. Hey there Katy ! Your article is providing a wonderful opportunity to connect! I can only guess that like in any scene, perhaps there are different “crowds” artistically that hang together? SO — let’s break the ice and spread the love!! As co-owner of the Tacoma-based label Maurice The Fish Records, I would love to invite you and your pals out to one of our many musical events we have been scheduling in clubs, coffee houses, and performance venues in Tacoma, Seattle, and dozens of other outlying towns in WA, since 2008. We are partnered with many local business, one being the Tacoma Rainiers (who love to support ogirinal NW music) and we even provide original acts for Tacoma Rainiers games. As far as touring and hospitality goes, our director of Public Relations just housed a band touring through Tacoma from Los Angeles (The 44’s — they played The Spar) and my label co-owner Raymond Hayden not only frequently houses bands touring through the area, but we book them as well, so we’re no stranger to on-the-road-hospitality Heck, my Regional Head of Operations for my other label, Tin Star Records (Sister label to MTFR) lives in Tacoma (Susan Renvile), and she too has booked touring artists as well as ours all over Tacoma, the South Sound. We’ve been a driving force in the Tacoma and South Sound scene since 2007 and are partnered with other Tacoma-based musical organizatinos and labels such as Sweatbox Entertainment, Flathat Productions, and many others — even the legendary mic company Shure — and our network and following is huge, so I think this is a good ol’ fashioned case of “how the heck did we miss one another, all this time??” Though there is always room for any scene to grow, surely, and Tacoma, like many markets, has expereinced challenges through the economy — yet I can proudly report that from our perspective, it’s not nearly as grim — so come see what we’re talking about ! I highly encourage you to bring the friends you mentioned in the article to any MTFR show because I believe you’ll be thrilled with what’s been happening in the Tacoma musical scene for the past six years with respect to not only local talent, but interfacing with national media as well — FROM Tacoma. In fact, I was just up in Tacoma last month (from Los Angeles where I live) directing a music video for the Tacoma-based band Sevens Revenge, who is signed to not only one of my labels, but remains an artist affiliate of another (I own three.) http://youtu.be/GP5u7GQkCX8 Sevens Revenge played a sold-out show at Jazzbones just this past November, where we signed contracts with them onstage. So quite literally, acts are being signed into the Los Angeles market not out of Seattle, lol — but out of TACOMA — in front of sold-out crowds. AND — the great irony I’ve found (having been someone who used to be signed up in Seattle a million years ago during the 90’s grunge boom) is that many Seattle bands have reached out to my Partners in the Tacoma scene musically, which has much more of a cohesive, family feel. So come be part of our musical family that’s been thriving in Tacoma since 2007 — there is a LOT going on — packed shows, artists supporting other artists, huge community fundraisers, amazing community-minded corporate sponsorships through music, video shoots — that we’d love to share with you, and have you be part of! Please head on over to our website, http://www.MauriceTheFishRecords.net — and to be our guest at an upcoming event! And in the meantime, we just nationally released the video for Sevens Revenge, filmed in Tacoma — maybe you’ll even recognize some of the locations ? Enjoy! All my best — Danielle

    • Katy Evans says:

      Hi Danielle, thanks to both you and Raymond for responding to the article. It would be great to connect with you (and I definitely recognized some corners of Tacoma in the Sevens Revenge video, thanks for sharing)!

      And thank you for all the excellent information; the comments here have become an additional strong resource for anyone looking to support music in Tacoma.

  11. bill schlanbusch says:

    Interesting essay. Seems circuitous, though. So, bands hear “Tacoma”, and say, “hell no”. But bands need to respect fans more. But clubs like ladies’ night. But people talk through 20 dollar an act shows. But fans need to be dedicated. But house parties rule (they do). But … nothing. My home town is doing everything right. Struggling. Striving. Disappointing and being disappointed. Remaining defensive, remaining elusuve, marginalized, lionized, poser, playa, hungry, with an appetite for… the world may never know what. Because that’s the capricious nature of it. So, I think my Tacoma is right where it should be. Which is where it is, isn’t it? In the shadow. A heaving, galumphing sort of birth defect. But it’s OUR birth defect, am I right? Always told it was “stupider”, we believed them. The people are great. The City on the other hand… how shall I say this? …HATES ROCK AND ROLL. Positioned in a consumer based, market driven model for the pop culture attention span, TTOWN is kind if hobbled. Don’t stop striving, but smell a rose or two now and then. The going was, has, is, and ever will be uphill. And steep going. Get strong or level the field. Perhaps that’s what you’re calling for.

    • Katy Evans says:

      Ha, yes Bill, you’re right that it is circuitous. Part of the challenge in representing the various perspectives and experiences of the folks I spoke to. And I think i’ts really valid that you highlighted that there is no investment at a civic level in growing and supporting live music. Thank you for the “get strong or level the field” statement; that definitely seemed to be the goal from everyone I spoke to and its an excellent summation! Thanks so much for your comment.

  12. Q Dot says:

    Good read and good points. I’ve been on both sides of the ball – being an artist and booking some events. Seeing the scene thrive and stall. There are definite bright spots in Tacoma and in certain pockets things are going well – not so much in others. You see the success of someone like a Vicci Martinez and how Tacoma really embraced her and you can see that Tacoma CAN get behind someone and support them. I’ll say as someone booking acts that the points about Tacoma’s reputation are freakishly and annoyingly real and I hate it. As a performer i’ve suffered the same fate. If I say anything regarding Tacoma or playing Tacoma shows to promoters or bookers not from here I feel the guard go up and the stereotypes come out. Which is ridiculous cuz there isn’t anything intimidating about a guy who plays piano and raps. haha.

    Seriously though, It makes it really hard to convince touring acts to come to Tacoma and compensate them when not only you’re going against a perception that isn’t the most inviting and then the venues in town that would be suitable are all but unapproachable. I’m not knocking Jazzbones or The Swiss, they’re getting their money their way and that’s totally fine but I think that somehow someway there has got to be a way to get them involved. What’s more is when I think more about it, those venues stick around and the others who do support the local live music scene have an almost definite lifespan of a couple years and that speaks to the possibility that Tacomans by and large just don’t care about nurturing a scene they way most of us would like them to as harsh as that sounds. And I guess it’s because I didn’t come up in Tacoma so i’m not really in any of the “circles” mentioned but it feels like i’m still on the outside looking in. I’m curious if any other musicians have felt this but it seems like Tacoma doesn’t do much in the way of really embracing it’s acts. Sure there are friends and family that come and support Tacoma bands/MCs but beyond that??

    Just venting. None the less I still try my best to support Tacoma hip hop through my online radio station – gojuiceradio.com and I still try to bring hip hop to events I may book – i’m working on another summer fest now downtown just as an FYI and would love some of the community involvement that I see here on this board. There’s also a space opening up where my studio is located that would be great for live, all ages shows that could likely accomodate 150-200 people.

    shoot me an email at qdot (at) tredmarks (dot) com =) or friend me on facebook ((Quincy Henry – personal/Q Dot – music)) and let’s work.

    • Katy Evans says:

      Q Dot! Thanks a lot for your perspective and insight – and also for the great ideas about resources! I will make sure to pass along the info and it would be great to get you in a room with the five I talked to for this article too.

      Thanks again!

  13. I love that this article has sparked so much discussion. As co-founder and lead organizer for Tacoma’s newest network of artists and art-lovers, The Free Word Association, I would like to see the discussion Raymond of Maurice the Fish Records was talking about take place. Louie G’s would be the perfect venue for such a meeting. It has seating for as many of us as could show up, and Louie is a major patron of the arts in the 253. I’d be happy to moderate the discussion or facilitate its creation. Who’s with me? Contact me at eljefe@freewordtacoma.com or call/text me at 253-227-6884. We could even record some of it for replay on NWCZradio.com or live stream the event. Hell, we could even have a couple rad local bands play after!

  14. infradead says:

    i’ve been putting on experimental electronic shows for about a year now first at the now closed cafe dei and then metronome coffee. now i’m trying to find another venue and for the most part have heard you’d have no problems in seattle. now granted the music at the tacoma noise rodeo is not something that everyone will enjoy but the fact that how difficult i’ve found it to find a new venue is becoming really discouraging when i know how easy it would be to do in seattle.

  15. RR Anderson says:

    Tacoma just needs more pay-to-play venues ! or Kickstarter!

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