Echo: How did you get started with the Spot?
Wes Julien: The process started around 2019. We were kind of getting things back together in this space and looking to rebuild. We’re thankful to have been able to link up with my friends and be able to start back over again and start something fresh here in this space. It’s been a 2.5-year process. From just getting things going to having to pause because of COVID and working to just rebuild again. It’s been really dope I’m really thankful to be doing something really amazing with friends that I trust and that I rock with. We’ve all been along with each other’s journeys. It’s great to do this together.
Tayvian Johnson: All of us have performed here at least once. Being in this space that we have all used and utilized is super cool.
E: Is there anything coming up that you are excited for?
Brian Fanning: Notably coming up, every third Sunday of the month we have Polyrhythms is doing an open jam and performance here. During the month of August, Alternating Currents will be happening here for the first time ever. That’s really something we’re all excited about. We have a couple of acts from out of town coming in and local acts. Roaring Rhetoric is a poetry event that happens on the first Friday of every month. We have some music, some poetry, a couple of things for the arts, like painting events and stuff like that. We’re definitely excited for the future.
T: We’re going to be doing open mic nights that are going to be free to the people performing. And we’ll do a list sign-up, but getting people out and doing stuff in a different environment than people have been used to for the past 18 months. The grand opening is coming soon.
E: What do you think are the special qualities of this space?
T: The pit-style venue is a big one. Having the stage being lower than the viewing area is something that I have only seen in an amphitheater setting. Having that in a local small setting is kind of cool.
Heather Lawver: Something that is really interesting is the history of the building and how it has brought communities together in the past. There’s a lot of local musicians that have come through for events that they used to have this stuff going on in this room 20 or 30 years ago. There’s been this huge break in that because of all the diversity and the cultures not being able to do what they needed to do to show their talent. People are really excited about coming out and showing what they have. Even the age range, 30’s to 65, is interesting, and they really enjoyed themselves. They felt like their group could get together and jam out and also have conversations and vibe and connect with people in other age brackets.
W: A little bit of everyone can be here from every walk of life. They all have a love for the art and the culture that’s here. That is what brings everyone together, is the art. To see that – no matter your ethnicity or your class bracket – it’s all about the art and having a good time and enjoying yourself and the experience, not just coming to a show. Literally just having a real experience, I think that is what makes this place so special is that we give experiences.
E: Where is your favorite spot to watch shows?
H: We have this little clubhouse that used to be where DJs and sound was set up. It’s really cool because you get this great overview and it really just reminds you of being in the theatre and it’s really exclusive up there.
B: I get kind of a unique perspective at shows. I get to sit down in the pit with the band a lot of the time. Obviously it’s not something the average fan has access to, but it is a really cool spot to be down there with the band. It has a unique acoustic environment down there because they’re underneath the awning, so the band just gets super loud. The fans on the bottom row can definitely feel the difference in how loud the bands can get down there.
W: Besides the room up there, because that’s actually one of my favorites, too…kind of being in the middle row. Right in the center. It’s like being at a movie theatre because you’re literally at the center of everything where you’re getting perfect angles to hear everything and to be able to surround yourself with all the vibes of people and music and experience.
T: I think if you know how to do this and I don’t suggest it..and if you don’t work here you definitely shouldn’t do it, but you can stand on top of the stage. If you know how to get up there and it’s a good time.
W: Someone has to perform up there! I feel like that’s something Travis Scott would do.
T: I’m not catching nobody! They sue people for crown surfing now. Don’t jump on me! I’m not going to catch you.
E: Who is The Spot for?
B: I think this space is for anybody that has a respect, a love and an appreciation of art. I think this space knows no bias by gender, skin color, sexual orientation or preference. This is a safe space for anybody who loves and appreciates art and the performing arts. We have had transgender performers on our stage already. We have had a lot of different colors of skin people perform on this stage that have felt comfortable in this space. That is our goal is to continue to provide a space that anyone who appreciates art is welcome and safe here and feels like they have a place to come and enjoy music and perform.
T: I think to further that point because we are a very neutral space by definition, you can kind of tune it to whatever crowd or group of specific people you want here that night. There are some shows where we know we’re going to need security at the door because we know people are going to get a little rowdy. There are other shows where there are kids here and we’re doing it for the kids and everything in between. I think that a lot of times in certain situations or institutions things are built for a certain type of person because it is either profitable or the status quo. We don’t have that down here. We’re pretty much the only building on our strip right now that is open to the public. There’s not really a regular market right now. We’ve had quite the diverse stuff already in here and we haven’t really been open yet.
W: I think that’s because we have a diverse amount of tastes as well. We’re involved in so many things in so many areas in the Quad Cities and just around the country and the world. We’ve all done so many things and had the chance to really appreciate culture, so the goal is to just bring that culture back here into this space and be able to celebrate culture. There is nothing wrong with it. We celebrate being unique. The only thing I ask if people come to perform is that they’re nice…and that their art isn’t wack. That’s the only thing I’m judging.
T: You will get bounced for that! If you’re wack…don’t come.
W: Just be nice. Be a good human and don’t come with no wack stuff. It’s pretty simple. It’s all about raising the bar of what we bring to the Quad Cities because there’s so much dope art. There are so many dope artists here, so we want to continue to raise that bar and set that standard. Some people find it hard to believe how many dope artists there are around here. They’re like “Wait what…you’re from here?” Even looking at the history of musicians and how we’ve changed the culture. Bix Biederbeck. Louis Bellson…the fact that there wouldn’t be a double bass drum without the Quad Cities. That’s a Quad Cities thing! The costume designer for Purple Rain and the costume designer for Earth, Wind and Fire was from Rock Island! He graduated in ‘76.
B: Even the dancers! There are dancers that have danced with Nicki Minaj from the Quad Cities.
W: We’ve got that! We want to highlight that and continue to build the culture and build new artists and give them a place to grow and continue to become the stars that they can be. I almost look at this as a Dojo as well, as a breeding ground for new talent. At that open mic, there was a lot of potential. It was like “oh wow! Let’s watch out for him in two years.” How do we help him or her get over that next little level or get over that next hump? There’s a lot of that here and it’s going to be really amazing.
*Looks at other board members*
I’m thankful for you guys. I’m thankful that we get to do this together.
E: Can we talk about how young you guys are and how you’re making this happen?
*Boisterous laughs from all*
I’m serious! I think there’s something to be said about not having anything to do growing up and now this generation has the opportunity to change that.
T: That’s facts. You don’t want the children planning their own parties. If nothing else you should have a place…kind of funny…we’re in a place right now…that people can come and it has a set standard and rules. They used to do the teen nights at the Expo center, but kids need something to corral that energy because kids are just going to do what they want to do. If you know how to create a good time, people will come have a good time, but if there’s no one to do it, the kids will go do it themselves. You have to be able to bridge that gap especially when it comes to having safe spaces and safe places. It’s definitely a task in this area. Having more stuff like that I think is going to be something that helps keeps kids’ attention out of the wrong place.
B: Our youth in what we’re doing right now obviously has us a little inexperienced, but I think where we lack in experience we are a little bit more in tune and our ears are a little bit closer to the ground with what is happening in our community. I think that gives us an advantage to where we might not have the infrastructure and the money that some of the longer operating establishments have but I think that we have some of the connections to our community that are a little bit strong. So that lets us know what the community will want to see happening in a performance venue and some of the talents that the community wants light shed on a little bit more. I think that’s really where our youth plays to our advantage, to the relevance to what is happening culturally across America and what’s happening in our own city and us being able to recognize that and shed light on the things that are culturally relevant to the youth of our community.
W: I think another thing that helps is that we do have the support of those that are older and have been doing this for 30-40 years. A couple of years ago I got the chance to intern with Polyrhythms and thankfully they were open – because sometimes you get older people who are not as open and willing to hear what you have to say – but there are a lot of people in that older age bracket that understand and trust us and trust what we are capable of doing. They’re wisdom and their resources and their knowledge and passing us the torch. I believe that they believe we’re next as far as taking the culture to the next level. That’s my goal. Our goal is to push it further than they have so when the people behind us come – because I know I’m not going to be here forever – we have something to hand down to keep the culture going and thriving. I’m thankful for those who are trusting us with that task and that responsibility.
E: Why the Quad Cities?
T: The PG answer is I love this place. I want to contribute to the place that helped make me who I am. But for me…I got pulled over the other day and without running my plates the cop knew who I was on a first-name basis. I can’t beat that. I can’t go to a big city and think my experience is going to be as hometown-y as this little area is. I’ll keep my nice little pocket of the world where it’s nice and safe and things make sense.
W: I knew if not us, then who? I split a lot of time between Chicago and here if I’m not touring. I don’t want the youth or other artists to have to go through the struggles that we had to go through, just to make a little bit of noise or just to get someone to notice. The reason why I personally go as hard as I do, is to just bring those resources back and say “Hey, it’s here. I can do it. I made it. Come on. We’re all going to do it. If I did it, we did it.” That’s my goal every time is always to just bring it back home and just rep the SQuad Cities as much as I can. When I go places and tell them I’m from Rock Island Illinois they ask me how close it is to Chicago, I say “No. It’s the Quad Cities.”
B: Even playing off of what he said, I did come from a suburb of Chicago. I am not from the Quad Cities. I came from an area of Chicago where there isn’t much culture and there’s not much to be said for the people who come from my city as far as culture goes. So when I moved to the Quad Cities and I saw how rich the culture was here and how much this area has to offer and has always had to offer, it made me want to support it even more. Seeing the difference from where I grew up to this area made me want to go hard for the talent that the Quad Cities has to offer. I know how high the caliber the talent and culture are here. It’s something worth fighting for and deserves a platform. It’s been long overdue for its exposure on the world stage.
H: I’ve always wanted something that is safe for even my kids to go into. With everyone staying home, I think it is even more important to reach those kids who might be introverts and let them know it’s ok to go out and be with people who are just like you. Being able to give the youth direction and even some older people. Having this be the first time and space for those individuals is a great feeling to all of us. That makes us go home happy, just being able to do what we do and doing it because we love to do it and not because we have to is something really special. We’ve put a lot of work into this behind the scenes.
Please note that an additional board member, Avery Pearl, was absent from this conversation.
For more information about the happenings at The Spot, follow them on their social channels and look for updates on their website: thespotqc.com.