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Love at First Strum

NME recently published a video in which international musicians explain why small venues are important to any music scene. This month, we celebrate the 8-year anniversary of the Trunk Space, one of Phoenix’s smallest music and art spaces.

Linsey Chrishel, who spent most of her young adulthood at small venues in Phoenix that no longer exist, believes that these small spaces are a big part of the scene.

Music fulfills a different role in everyone’s life.

Many people simply like to dance to it, or consume it as if it were food or air. Music can feel like the comfort of an only friend. It may provide the background to the day or envelope the listener like a dark night. Music can pull you up by the very bootstraps it bestowed upon you. It can take you away to another time.

For those who truly love music, listening to it is not always enough. Live performances give you the opportunity to see a band you already love, or to be struck by something new. I can think of no better setting for this to happen than in a small venue.

If you are truly lucky, you may fall in love at first strum. I have been struck by the mighty arrow of the “rock n’ roll cupid” more than once, and I think I can fairly say that those were some of the most magnificent moments in my life. I certainly credit the musician first, but these musical hotspots set the scene for incredible moments. Intimate spaces offer meaningful and magical moments, or at the very least, a nice evening. It seems impossible for me to imagine having a similar experience from across a stadium, or massive lawn (I suppose the exception is seeing the band KISS in this set up).

I am an eternal fan girl.
This started in my youth and I suspect I will never shake it. When I fall in love with a band, I fall completely in love. I want to know everything about them: where they grew up, what they eat for breakfast, their favorite guitar pickups, who their prom dates were, their influences, and who influenced those influences. A better person would be embarrassed.

When the bands I adored came to town, I had to see them. Not only that, but I had to see them up close. I never danced at shows. This is not solely due to my inability to carry myself with any grace (even without music), but the way I figured it, I could always embarrass myself by dancing to their records at home… alone. During a show, I had to do some hardcore observing, learning, and cheering!

All 5 feet one inch of me was determined to stand my ground, and keep my eyes on the band. There were many shows that barely had a stage; the music was literally in your face. For someone like myself, being eye level with a band that gave meaning to my meager life was indescribable. These experiences are burned into my memory. The proximity to the creation and expression of well-executed music can be a profoundly powerful experience. Getting close to the action was thrilling and, at times, a little dicey.

I remember seeing the band Armchair Martian in 1997. In the middle of a guitar solo, the string (or strings) on the lead singer’s guitar snapped from the pure fury in which he was playing them. It was an amazing performance, though I could have lost an eye had I been any closer.

Another evening I found myself a little too close for comfort at a punk show. On this occasion, I was equally terrified and entertained while watching the band Guttermouth and their unusual stage antics. Let’s just say the lead singer decided to do a bit of a magic trick. He took a drumstick and made a great deal of it disappear under the hindside of his kilt. I made it a point to keep my distance that night. I may have been thoroughly traumatized but, hey, it was still memorable!

There are very few small venues as important as those that welcome audiences of all ages. All-ages venues and shows were not easy to find when I was growing up. These places not only provided great, and in my opinion, relatively safe entertainment options for those under 21, but also fostered another generation of musicians and those who appreciate the arts. There are never enough all-ages venues, in my opinion. I can think back on shows I attended as a teenager, how exotic it was that these bands were bringing a piece distant lands to my little town. For a kid that couldn’t wait to get out into the world, it was a small consolation that the world came to me.

Smaller venues also serve as a launching pad for up-and-coming artists. Musicians hone their art on these stages. As someone who has played a few stages, I can tell you it never mattered much if the stage was just a square of floor, or  5 feet high. As long as I got to play, and someone thought I was worth seeing, I was pleased.

Many moons ago, I had the great fortune of discovering an all-ages venue just down the way from my house. Modified Arts was a beacon of light to me, and a place I gladly spent many evenings. I didn’t know many of the bands that played there, but I knew if I showed up, I might just find some music I couldn’t live without. Modified put on showcases where new musicians had the opportunity to play. As one of these evenings approached, I thought I might give it a try. I had played with my band in various backyards and living rooms in my punk/rock days, but this opportunity seemed larger than life to me, even in the modest space. My friend/co-worker named Sarah was a fantastic guitarist, so I asked her to play alongside me at a showcase. She agreed and we were a band named Firebelly for the evening.

I could not tell you how many people showed up that night, though I believe a majority of them were family.What I do know is that it was a remarkable moment for me as a musician and a music fan. Someone gave me a shot! Being up on that stage gave me a deep appreciation for everyone whom I had ever seen there. I clearly didn’t go on to make millions as a huge rockstar, but the nights spent at places such as The Mason Jar, Modified, Boston’s, Urbana Productions and other similar spots, whether on stage or in the audience, were some of the best of my life.

Over the years, these places have changed hands and names, but the spirit of the small venue lives on in almost every corner of town.


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