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Friday, May 10, 2013

WonderRoot fixture Kyle Swick on the importance of fostering DIY culture

Kyle Swick (left) with Places To Hide
  • Courtesy Places To Hide
  • Kyle Swick (left) with Places To Hide
The first three shows I saw when I moved to Atlanta were at Eyedrum, MINT, and WonderRoot. I was amazed by the amount of DIY art space shows happenings in town. For awhile bff Emily Kempf and I almost exclusively played at WonderRoot, and basically met most of the people we consider to be our best friends there. It was a breeding ground that expanded our ole band from three people to a rotating cast of fifteen and let other music makers invent and reinvent projects on a weekly basis. We played in front of 15. We played in front of 100. It was a room that was always fun, no matter who was there. Bands that couldn't get booked anywhere else in town could play for captive audience on any given night. They could also just play to the other bands and no one else too. That was part of the terror and magic of booking a show there. The first time I saw Red Sea, A. Grimes, Amy Godwin, Carnivores, Casey Hood, Surfer Blood, Danny Bailey, Tera Melos, Reptar, and many more was at WonderRoot. I've since grown old and out of touch but I know that basement is still packing kids in and providing one of the few legit all ages spaces in town for musicians known and unknown to hone their skills and build an audience.

Kyle Swick - former booker of the space and still constant volunteer - gave me the low down on what's happening there and why that concrete basement is so vital for Atlanta's music scene.

What's your role at the Wonderroot show space?
I book most of the shows, in addition to coordinating details between bands and handling some promotional duties. You can also find me running the soundboard at 90% of WonderRoot's shows.

Do you play in any bands that perform at WonderRoot?
Yes, I play in Places To Hide. WonderRoot has actually been host to a majority of the shows we've played. It's our preference to play in low-key settings like WonderRoot and show-houses. We're actually having our record release show at Wonderroot on May 25, and we couldn't be more excited about it!

What function do you see the space providing?
The show space at WonderRoot is 100% DIY, volunteer-run, and one of the few all-ages venues in Atlanta. It serves as a haven for both touring and local acts, a place to perform and grow without having to worry about all the corporate-minded venue regulations, and pressure for ticket sales, and lop-sided payouts, etc.

When I first moved to Atlanta we played almost all our shows at WonderRoot and that led to bookings at clubs around town, from 529 to the HIGH. Do you still see bands getting their start at WonderRoot and moving into other clubs?

Absolutely. For example, Places To Hide's first set of shows took place exclusively at Wonderroot or houses-parties, but a few months into playing we began receiving requests to play gigs at more established venues like the Earl, Drunken Unicorn, etc. Without WonderRoot, we'd have been unable to make enough of a name for ourselves to get to that point. It being on the smaller side of things, WonderRoot naturally caters to newer, smaller bands. It packs out at a 75-100 head-count. Playing at larger venues to larger crowds is a lot of fun, but what WonderRoot has to offer over other venues is a greater equality or "intimacy" between the bands and the audience. There's no raised stage, so bands are eye-level with the crowd, providing for a real "community" kind of vibe. That being said, I'd still like to see an increase in more notable bands playing at Wonderroot. It's pretty gratifying to book larger bands who are looking to return to their roots in the DIY space.

Are some bands strictly WonderRoot bands?
I can't think of any bands that play or have played solely at the Wonderroot for very long after first starting. But as I said before, Wonderroot is a go-to for my band when we're booking in Atlanta, especially when the show bill consists entirely of locals.

What's the importance of an all ages DIY space?
Most importantly, the all ages DIY space is a place for growth. Whether it's been through attending shows on a regular basis or actually playing in a band, I can say that being part of a DIY culture has largely shaped me into what I am today. I grew up booking and going to shows in basements, legion halls, living rooms, gymnasiums, skateparks, etc. Friends and I even threw a few shows at a barber shop in Reynoldstown a while back. What sets a DIY space apart from a business-driven venue is that the DIY space is not founded upon profit, or popularity, or fashion, or credibility. It's about love for music and for your friends. It's about having fun, and it's about making something together. Something good. Whether you're building relationships with fellow musicians or building a stage out of plywood with fellow volunteers, you're given an opportunity to do something that has a direct and positive effect, you're putting your heart into it, and you're helping others in the process

Can you name a few bands playing Wonderroot recently that we should take the time to check out?
Concord America, Cheap Art, Jesse & the Great Perhaps, Ganges Phalanges, and Pillage and Plunder = All great people making great music. There are a ton of great shows coming up this summer, come get hot and sweaty with us, Atlanta <3

Take a minute and creep around WonderRoot's events calendar and discover something new. And volunteer ya bum!

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