Attending a concert is about experiencing the music as vividly as possible. But as with all art, there are no small number of cogs and wheels turning to serve that effect, to put the band on stage in front of you.
Some of those pieces include labels, studios, venues, agents, promoters, roadies, sound tech, lighting and more. Ryan Levey and Jordan Obermeyer are two pieces of that local music mechanism. As a team, they lead Monumental Shows, which helps link artists to venues here in the Spokane area.
The two have been working together since shortly after Levey founded the company in 2009, and over the years they’ve brought acts big and small, national and local, to Spokane stages. “I forget that it’s been that long. It’s just something that I’ve always kind of done,” Levey said.
Their approach to promoting shows is interpersonal: It’s all about knowing the scene. “I think it’s just because of the grassroots approach” that we’ve been around so long, said Obermeyer, who is also head chef at Durkin’s Liquor Bar. Spokane’s music scene is “a very organic thing for us and something that we grew up in.”
Helping that scene grow was a huge part of both Levey and Obermeyer’s lives before the pandemic put their whole industry on hold. The hold has done more than slow growth, though: It has caused actual damage.
For one thing, the city is down live music venues, having lost the Pin earlier in the pandemic. “There’s no room for any cutthroat drama or anything like that or competition, really, because no one really sees each other as competition,” which just makes it sadder to lose a venue, Levey said.
The duo did the best they could to support the scene early in lockdown, streaming interviews on Instagram and helping promote livestream concerts. But as of now, all eyes are on the future.
“We’re probably safer to say at the end of the year, beginning of next year, we’ll be able to get back into the swing of things and focus on booking shows,” Obermeyer said. “It’s going to be an explosion of live music once it’s fully able to happen.”
“For me, it’s a blend of optimism and concern,” Levey added. “I think that there’s a large amount of people who are essentially bursting at the seams to go out to any event, it really doesn’t matter, they just want to go to a live show.”
But all the bits and pieces of the music industry that have fallen by the wayside these past few months will take time to gather themselves. “To book a tour, a touring artist, it takes a few months ahead of time, pre-planning to get it set situated,” Levey said.
Not to mention a world post-pandemic will be different from the one now. Data on turnouts and any notion of certainty about how a tour or performance will do financially are gone, which puts everyone in a fix.
“These roadies want money, the sound guys, the tour managers, everyone, they want money, and we want to give it to them. But at the same time, it’s like, we don’t know how this response is gonna be,” Levey said.
So, what’s the Spokane concert scene going to look like during the reboot? “For the first while, it’s probably going to be mostly regional and local artists who are ready to play because that’s where they live,” Levey said. And local venues won’t have to front cash to draw their attention.
“The local artists should not only see this as the venues needing you to step up to the plate and try to wrangle everyone and get them back into the clubs to help the venues prosper and get back on their feet,” Levey said.
“But also, this is their moment to shine. This is a time where they’re not opening for anyone. They’re the headline, they’re the ones who everyone’s coming to pay to see.”
The lag in the touring business will shift the spotlight onto local artists sometimes overshadowed by big touring groups, but that’s not to diminish the importance of the touring groups.
Their impact on the kid in the crowd – the future promoter, venue owner, or artist – can’t be understated, but, as Levey points out, “the local bands are the bread and butter of the Spokane music scene, or any scene really, because they’re the ones who keep that alive, keep it going, keep it building.”
Julien A. Luebbers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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