Musicians: Local music scene needs a ‘shot in the arm’

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Jordan Clark, The After Hours lead singer, sings at the The Varsity Truck during Live Music in the Alley on Aug. 28, 2015. (File Photo by Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

Students and local musicians believe the Aggieville live music scene could be improved. Some say a new venue could be the answer.

“It needs a shot in the arm,” Doug Chapman, a 1970 Kansas State alum, said.

Chapman, a local musician, paid his college tuition by playing in gigs around town. His extensive music career includes touring with The Drifters and being inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Chapman continues to be a part of the local scene by playing on Tuesdays throughout the summer at O’Malley’s Alley, but said he remembers a time when there was more opportunity for local musicians to showcase their work.

“There was a club on the corner of 11th and Laramie called PJ’s, probably before (many students now) got here,” Chapman said. “What they did is a couple nights a week they let high school and college bands come in, and do four or five originals or covers and bring their own audience in. We don’t have that anymore. We just need one or two bar owners to say, ‘Hey, I really want to help the music scene and here’s what I’m willing to do.’”

One venue in town that promotes local music is Sisters of Sound Records, but the venue lacks size and a stage. The small record shop in Aggieville hosts local performers throughout the year.

“I love dropping by the record shop on Saturdays to listen to local music, I just wish the area was a little bigger,” Spencer Andresen, gradate student in architecture, said. “Students are definitely looking for more live music options aside from country.”

Auntie Mae’s is also a popular spot for local acts on various nights throughout the year but, similar to Sisters of Sound Records, the establishment has limited space and lacks a stage.

Steve Keck, a local artist by the name of “Betty the Astronaut,” said there is a need for a venue.

“It has become apparent how difficult it is to find a venue to play in, even as a one or two person artist,” Keck said. “I’m not sure what the solution is. I’d love to say more venues, but I don’t know how profitable a place that solely focuses on live music would be.”

Keck said he believes Manhattan is home to enough talented artists to fill a venue week in and week out.

“We absolutely have enough artists to fill it,” Keck said. “And if there was a weekly open mic night it will breed a community where musicians can easily meet other musicians and start playing together and starting new bands.”

Aggie Central Station, a retired Aggieville bar, hosted live music and an open mic night before closing its doors about a year and a half ago. Keck said he routinely played at the bar with his previous band The Carney Encore. Keck said Aggie Central Station played a vital role in the resurgence of the community’s music scene, and was a venue that was able to host often.

“When we were playing, we could get shows at both Auntie Mae’s and Aggie Central Station with ease,” Keck said.

When it was open, performers were usually able to find open dates to play, Keck said. This gave any artist with a passion for performing a weekly opportunity to play, even if they were not necessarily “good.” That changed when Aggie Central Station closed.

“With the closing of ACS, and therefore open mic night, bands and the music scene were put in a tough position,” Keck said. “Auntie Mae’s is obviously still around and hosting live shows, but it would be impossible for them to carry the burden of all the musicians that want to perform.”

Keck, Chapman and various local artists want the opportunity to showcase their music. Andresen and others said they want to listen.

Keck said he believes the issue might come down to a dollar amount.

“People who are much smarter and more business savvy than me have not jumped on the opportunity to open one, so I’d imagine its not as profitable as we artists would like to believe,” Keck said. “But we are dreamers, and I imagine one of us will soon take the leap of opening up their own venue. And I really hope those dreams of a successful bar with a focus on local music can be realized.”

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  • ModernMademoiselle

    This is painfully true. So many students move in from out of town year after year and have nowhere to share their art or music. Manhattan feels like a social hub to so many in central Kansas and yet there’s enough missing to send the creative community out to Lawrence or Kansas City. One night a week is all it would take for any business to open their doors to customers they may otherwise never see. The turnaround could be exponential, and yet no one seems to care.