When you walk into The Space, the first thing you notice are the stickers-there are a lot of them.
On the door, which is covered, but they must have run out of room there. Head into the show room-equipped with a snack bar and merchandise table-and you’ll notice that they’ve overflowed out onto the a couple of poles between the stage and a collection of tables set up for spectators.
“One for every band that’s been here,” says Jon Galvin, guitarist and lead vocalist for The Lively-formerly the Lively Lot-which just finished their set at last Thursday night’s show. “There’s countless more that just don’t sticker. When we first came, we probably put four up in different places.”
And on cars in the venue’s parking lot-a hidden gem among the maze of industrial buildings. We’re outside at the picnic tables in front of the Space’s neon sign-the advertised draw: coffee, and a recording studio. Mick Bailek, The Lively’s other guitarist, is sitting nearby. He grins at the memory.
“‘You will listen to us’,” Bailek recalls with a laugh.
That was ten years ago. The two try to figure out how many shows that is. At first Galvin says seven or eight, but then they remember:
“We played here almost once a month last year,” Bailek reminds him.
“Yeah, we played here a lot,” Galvin says.
If the stickers are any indication, for underground, up and coming bands, all roads lead to The Space, Hamden’s iconic venue that is now trying to see the path beyond its own dead end-financial struggles compounded in the winter’s series of snow storms and the subsequent show cancellations.
Rodgers did not specify as to how behind they are, but fundraising goals-they’re running a campaign online-are at $25,000.
“It’s been a tough winter,” says Steve Rodgers, the owner and founder of The Space. “This has been the most challenging financial time we’ve been through.”
And that’s saying a lot, considering the venue’s roots.
Flashback to 2003: Rodgers-a decade of his own tours under his belt-was living in the apartment above a Treadwell Street building; the home of a friend’s record label endeavor that also served as a practice space for bands. When the latter became an issue with their landlord, Rodgers faced eviction.
It was around that time that he was taking a walk to clear his head and cope with the stress of the situation. The area near where Treadwell meets Dixwell Avenue-a collection of hidden lots and storefronts-doesn’t seem ideal for a stroll, but for Rodgers, it turned out to be the best place he could have been.
He crossed Treadwell and wandered into one of the lots and stumbled upon a building that was-at that time-just, well, space.
“The sign said, ‘For Rent’,” Rodgers said.
And then he had the idea.
If Rodgers’ impulse that day was driven by the nostalgia of a band hangout and rehearsal spot lost, that’s reflected in its reincarnation. The basement venue is spacious, but it feels small in that the vibe is intimate, and that’s the way Rodgers wants it.
“I played different kinds of venues all over the country,” he says. “So I kind of garnered a feel for what a place should look like, feel like, act like.”
A few words that come to his mind: “Safe”. “Positive”. The slogan on The Space’s website puts it like this: A venue run “for musicians, by musicians.”
Tangibly, what does that translate to?
If you ask artists such as Galvin and Mimi Herrick-she’s played The Space for a decade as a member of three different bands- the lead vocalist and guitarist for Fighting Giants, it can come down to the owner and staff being hassle free. But the perks-on-site equipment and a recording studio-help as well.
“They’re just very band-friendly,” Herrick says after the opening set of last Thursday’s show. “It’s a really cool atmosphere that you don’t get elsewhere.”
And she’s aware of the venue’s financial difficulties.
“You take away this place, and it’s like taking away someone’s passion-someone’s way of learning,” Herrick says.
We’re a few songs into The Lively’s set. It’s a light crowd-it’s a weeknight-but everyone is stoked to rock out to their heavier sound. They finish one track to thunderous applause, but Galvin has room to be a little bit critical.
“We nailed it-sort of,” he tells the crowd.
The learning; that, is where The Space even more closely resembles the comfort of a practice session. Artists describe finding their stride, fine tuning their craft, and growing within the friendly confines. And they always come back. Now, they’re coming back to give back.
The Lively Band may have lost count of the shows they’ve played here, but tonight it’s, as Galvin puts it during the group’s set, about making “every show count”.
“Every show matters now,” he says to the crowd. “We’ve been playing here for well over a decade, and every time we come here, this place welcomes us with open arms. And we’re gonna keep it going. This is the part where I cry.”
Not really, but the sentiment has certainly been felt-and the fundraising effort has shown that.
When we first spoke to Rodgers-a little less than a week before last Thursday’s show-the online campaign had raised around $16,000. As of July 21, that had grown to over $21,000, and that’s before a pair of August fundraisers that will be held at the nearby Outer Space-it’s in the same lot and Rodgers owns both venues. On Facebook, anyway, around 900 people are projected to be attending.
That basement over at The Space probably wasn’t going to be big enough.
“There have been shows where kids were lined up out the door to the point where I had to say, ‘I can’t let anybody else in’,” Rodgers says. “Kids would hang out outside, just listening to the bands.”
If that’s reminiscent of the old Foreigner song, “Jukebox Hero”, there will be a number of bands passing their shadows as they cross The Space’s parking lot to perform at its sister venue. Rodgers equates it to a network-a huge family that, no matter how spread out they might get geographically, remains tight-knit and rallies at home at the first sign of trouble.
“I’m very blessed by the support we’ve gotten from the community,” Rodgers says. “There’s people from all over who have donated to our online fundraiser.”