Underground venues aren't a new concept to downtown or, let's face it, the entire city, in general. Chances are, as I write this, there's a show somewhere in this city being run out of an old warehouse with a low-tech sound system and cheap lighting. --- Without these venues, a lot of music created in this town would never be heard. But very few of these venues ever make it past the one-year marker, either due to constant problems or failure to have regular bookings, if not having to deal with the issue of relocating every three weeks. A lot of these venues are hard to sustain, but one in particular has made it work for at least two years.
The Shred Shed has been one of the most prominent of the underground venues, showcasing everything from hard rock to acoustic showcases from its location in the west end of downtown SLC, working off nothing more than social networking and support from the music scene to help it thrive for two years. Recently, the venue had to shut down from the original location, but is ready to open back up with its brand-new venue under the same name shortly. Before that happens, we chat with founder Jesse Cassar about his involvement with local music, starting up the Shed, the new locale and thoughts on the scene.
Gavin: Hey, Jesse. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jesse: Hey, Gavin. Well, I'm a Salt Lake City local who also has a second home -- metaphorically -- in Santa Cruz, California. I have currently lived in Salt Lake for almost three years, not counting the years of my youth spent here, and have been managing and now playing lights with my band Loom for those three years. I live downtown with my incredible girlfriend and have an addiction to staying busy. I also work at Este Pizza and have an addiction to pizza.
Gavin: How did you become interested in the local music scene, and what were some early influences on you?
Jesse: I've always been interested in the local music scenes of where I lived from the time I was about 14 due to my older sister, Ashley, taking me to shows. One of my first shows was an old Punk-o-Rama tour at Confetti's in Sugar House, where US Bombs, Pennywise, VooDoo Glow Skulls, Agnostic Front and others really opened my eyes to a passionate genre of art. Growing up in two very different and also similar music scenes made it a bit difficult to not become a fan of punk rock. Watching bands like The New Transit Direction, Form Of Rocket, The Corleones and Life Over Law in Salt Lake and watching Good Riddance, Fury 66 and AFI in Santa Cruz really helped put me on my current path.
Gavin: What eventually led to you becoming involved with Loom, and how has it been for you being the manager and light guy of such a prominent Utah band?
Jesse: I was living in Santa Cruz, promoting shows at a bar called the Blue Lagoon under the moniker "SOMA," and had booked Loom several times via Salt Lake promoter Jake Maxwell. The third time they came through, they asked if I would be interested in touring with them and I was obviously stoked on the idea. Having a unsatisfying job at a furniture store and living in a house of nine was not quite reason enough for me to decline the offer! The tour was just shy of three months, so we all built a great relationship. The dudes -- and gal -- asked me to stay involved as a manager/booking agent for the band. It has been an absolutely incredible experience that I wouldn't trade for the world and am so proud and honored to be a part of such a great music scene here in Salt Lake.
Gavin: How did you start getting involved with lighting and sound techniques, and what was it like incorporating and running those in the live show while performing on stage?
Jesse: Josh Devenport controlled a light board for the first three years of Loom and it was always one of my favorite parts of the live show. By the time I was becoming involved with the band, Josh was wanting to step away from the control board a bit to be more of a front man, which is a great role for him. We also had just recently replaced our drummer, since Jarom was moving on with Exigent Records and such, with Goose, who had some pieces of a light setup from his old band, Fear Before (The March of Flames). So it worked great that I could rebuild those lights to suit Loom. Since I already knew the songs inside and out and was at every practice anyway, it fell right into place. "Playing" the lights has been a blast and I love being a part of the musical experience.
Gavin: As a side note to that, how are things with Loom at the moment, and what's the good word on the next album?
Jesse: Things are sicky! We are all very busy with different projects: Mike just helped start a new nonprofit called AFLA (Artists For Local Agriculture), which Josh is a member of the board of. Goose is opening a food cart called Feed Me Sunshine and just joined the hardcore band Norma Jean. John is considering buying a house and will, hopefully, start a new punk band with Mike from Her Candane. And I have become more of a partner with Exigent Records, acting as a co-organizer of Crucial Fest. With me working on The Shred Shed, as well, we are all very busy. That all being said, after several years now, we have 10 badass brand-new songs that we are all very proud of. We're in the process of getting some pre-production done and will, hopefully, start recording locally within the next couple of months. A name for the album that has been tossed around is Thanks, in tribute to all the people who have helped Loom over the years. But since John and Goose don't know that name is being tossed around, it might get nixed!
Gavin: When did the idea come about for you to start up your own underground venue, and what made you decide to make it an all-ages location?
Jesse: It wasn't long after we came home from my first tour with Loom, fall of '09, that Mike and I started talking about putting together a second "Loom House" -- basically a place for us to practice and to be able to help our friends from out of town when they needed a show in Salt Lake. The idea was always an all-ages spot, as there is a handful of bar venues downtown and little-to-no all-ages ones. Plus, Bad Religion's record All Ages changed my damned life.
Gavin: How did you come across the place on 7th South, and what was it like for you getting it working like a venue?
Jesse: Actually, I found it very randomly. I had been spending weeks driving around in the Granary District -- 800 South 400 West area -- looking for a building for lease, and a sign in the window caught my eye. The building owner was happy to work with me so it worked out beautifully. We already owned most of a PA, and since it was only warehouses around, no neighbors were to be bothered.
Jesse: Well, it didn't seem to take very long before things we're picking up and becoming very steady. Mike had left the Shred Shed operations about five months in, and several good friends including Jeremy Condor, Nicholas Bat, Dreu Hudson of I Am The Ocean and basically the whole Broship really helped with the setting up and running of shows. It was clear that we were needed, as most shows that were setup were for the support of a touring act that had contacted me. It was a place for absolutely anyone to come and have good, safe fun. And we would BBQ once in awhile, so I think people really started loving us!
Gavin: Overall, you also became home to a lot of the harder rock and metal showcases, even becoming one of the official venues for Crucial Fest last year. What influenced you taking those shows on, and how did they do for you in the long run?
Jesse: As for influencing me, it was pretty natural, playing in a heavy band myself, and a lot of the bands we befriended on the road were fairly heavy themselves. Salt Lake happens to have a kickass hardcore/punk/rock & roll scene so it just fell into place. Crucial Fest would have been amazing last year also, but we actually had to close our doors the week of the fest! Way bad timing, but Bar Deluxe stepped up and saved my buns. And that's the type of community that I want to be involved with.
Gavin: The location was within a couple blocks of Kilby Court, which is pretty much the premiere all-ages venue in SLC. What were the benefits and disadvantages to being so close to a venue like that, and what did they think of the Shed and what you were doing?
Jesse: Kilby Court is a godsend, and without Lance Saunders and Will Sartain, SLC would have a HUGE void. I've always had a special place in my heart for Kilby since I grew up going to shows there, and a friend of mine had his first experience with a lady there. Lance would frequent shows at the Shed, and I've always worked to maintain a friendship with those dudes. I actually set up shows at Kilby and Urban as often as I can myself. I don't believe that the Shred Shed affects them in a bad way at all and, hopefully, in fact helps when they can't help a band. Kilby has been operating for over 10 years and has been run by musicians and artists the whole time. They also started out DIY, a lot like I did. Being close to them just always felt comfortable.
Gavin: Recently, you had to shut down your last location. How did the closure come about, and what were your thoughts on the first run of the venue?
Jesse: It was very sad for me when I had to shut down and was just something that needed to happen to allow growth and re-building. Some have told me shady promoters in town ran me out; I believe that we just out grew that location. Either way, it has really been a blessing in disguise, and I feel that what the Shed accomplished those first two years was amazing.
Gavin: Rather than just shut it down, you immediately started work on a brand-new location. Tell us about the work you've put into the new venue and changes you've made, and what people can expect when you open back up.
Jesse: Holy crap. Back in September, I started work on reopening and haven't stopped working at it. I'm currently working on locking down a building in the heart of downtown. Gathering information, looking for a building and raising money are not easy tasks but I'll tell ya, it's going to be worth it. If it wasn't for the support of my family, friends and my girl, Lauren, I may have lost my gusto a while ago. Changes: I'll have a close to 200-capacity venue to house better shows; the location in the city will be a million times better and we'll have a calendar in SLUG Magazine every month! People can expect the old Shred Shed, an artist-run venue/art gallery whose goal is to help our community. And I will do everything that I possibly can to have free pizza as much as possible.
Gavin: What's the overall goal you have for the Shred Shed, and what do you hope people will get out of the place?
Jesse: The goal is to become more of a staple in Salt Lake City and to offer a place for touring and local bands/artists/musicians alike to play shows. People will get the atmosphere of a beautiful DIY/art space that offers great music, good times and vibes -- lots of vibes!
Gavin: Moving on to local stuff, what's your take on the local music scene, both good and bad?
Jesse: I know that my business partner, Jarom, has said this, but the one thing we could use a bit more of is focus. We need to work together and understand the power of a community. Not saying that Salt Lake doesn't have that 'cause we do, we just need more of it. Salt Lake is all that any of us have here so we might as well work to make it strong as hell.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Jesse: There is great hip-hop, punk, funk and techno, and we as the artists need to hit the pavement to promote so that we don't lose what we have to some capitalist! And local bands/musicians need to get out there and tour. That is the key to bringing good music from all over the country back here. And read City Weekly and SLUG! Find out what's going on and get off your ass. Hard work is the cornerstone of success, and you can't work hard if you don't eat healthy. So don't eat crap, also.
Gavin: Who are some of your favorite bands coming out of Utah today?
Jesse: There are, honestly, a lot right now. Of course, my friends in Gaza, I Am The Ocean, Still Sea, Travelers Cold, DONE, Cicadas, Settle Down, Giraffula and The Greenhaus. Also Gunfight Fever, Merlin's Beard and Cedars from Ogden are all killing it right now. And if you don't know about Day Hymns, you need to get the net.
Gavin: What do you think of the other all-ages venues around Utah, and how hard is it to get music to people under 21?
Jesse: VERY HARD. We have a plethora of bars all over and very limited all-ages venues. I think very highly of the other all-ages venues in Utah and am happy they are here. The Go Go 37 in St. George has been a huge support to a lot of the Salt Lake bands that tour. The Basement in Ogden has always been about the music and offering something great to the community. Why Sound in Logan has been one of the only games in town up there for years now. We all need to work together, as a state and not just as independent cities and towns. I would love to be able to offer touring bands four excellent shows in Utah rather than just one so that we can show the rest of the country that we are a legitimate tour stop.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and the new Shred Shed over the rest of the year?
Jesse: A bunch of great shows/events at Salt Lake's newest all-ages venue and art studio. A kick-ass music festival. And a new Loom record. 2012 is the best year, ever!
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Jesse: Yes, thank you! Crucial Fest 2 is at the end of June so please hit up ExigentRecords.com for the scoop. Check out Loom on Facebook and keep your ears open for our new release. Also, if you see anything with a Broship or AFLA logo on it, I promise it's legit. Also, check out The Kentlands Initiative. They are a nonprofit working to do amazing things for Salt Lake and am proud to associate with them.
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