From the front row at the Ignition Garage you can reach out and touch your favorite musician on stage. From the back row, you’re still within eye-contact range.
The 120-seat live music venue is a new venture at Ignition Music on East Washington Street in Goshen. The name is a play on the building’s former use as a car repair center. Now the aged brick walls and the overhead iron trusses give the reused space the right ambiance for an intimate setting to hear bands that are wanting to play their music up close and personal for their fans.
“I have a passion for artists and their mission to get their music out to the public,” said Ignition Music owner Steve Martin on why he wanted to create the live music venue.
Martin can remember when bands toured the country and were hosted at local radio stations to promote their music. He said that form of promotion has mostly dried up. So, being a member of a band himself, Minor Profits, he decided to partner with his building-mates at Better World Books and create a small stage to host touring bands.
“Stage” may be a convenient way to describe the space, but it’s not elevated and isolated from fans like a traditional stage found in small nightclubs or theaters. This stage is simply a dedicated floor space that has been wired for speakers, amps and the electric juice needed to turn keystrokes and guitar strums into music.
Martin said his goal is to give bands a place where they can play music in a personal setting for appreciative fans — and make some coin doing so.
“The economics are stacked against the recording artist,” he said when speaking about the business side of holding a band together. He estimated a musician has to sell 143 CDs at $10 each to make minimum wage each month or have 837,000 streams on Pandora or other music Internet sites to also earn the minimum wage.
“Our vision is to create a place where the artists can come and create a direct relationship with their market,” he said.
Bands playing Ignition Garage are given 70 percent of the revenue of the tickets sold for each event. Bands also receive 100 percent of their merchandise revenue the night of their concert, according to Martin.
For the fans and bands, Martin said the venue is meant to present music the way it was intended to be presented, live and on the radio, not through the compressed bandwidth of an MP3 player.
Live on The Globe
The radio part of the experience is new to the venue. One of the other hats Martin wears is being a disc jockey on WGCS 91.1 The Globe. The Globe is Goshen College’s radio station, a music outlet that is known for giving lesser-known musicians some airtime. Martin’s weekly show is “One Guy’s Opinion.” It’s a fitting title for a man who is a staunch advocate for musicians.
WGCS began broadcasting from The Garage Wednesday night from a small radio booth that has been added to the front of the store. People walking down Washington Street are able to put their nose to the expansive front window and watch as Martin and others interview band members on the air after they perform or watch a regular WGCS broadcast.
“I still believe that radio is essential to the process of musical discovery,” Martin said.
The Globe’s crew is still working on connection logistics, but Martin’s goal is to also have at least one show broadcast live from the store each week.
“The purpose is to build a community of listeners and fans because mainstream radio has abandoned the emerging artists,” Martin said. “The bands are tired of being America’s beer salesmen.”
Martin was referring to bands being required to play top hits when playing at bars and nightclubs instead of being allowed to play their own music.
“I know there is a hunger for this because we have filled the room for four shows and for the number of people who have stepped up to volunteer,” Martin said.
Production manager for Ignition Garage is GC graduate Joel Jimenez, who travels the country as a sound engineer for musical acts. He has moved back to Goshen from Nashville, Tenn. where he lived for the past few years.
“I have been touring now for the past nine or 10 years. What makes this place (different) is that for most venues it’s a really cool venue and a lousy downtown. There’s not a lot of balance. This is one of the few venues that is a one-stop show kind of thing,” he said.
He said Ignition Music sells LPs and CDs and will now have live radio coupled with the live performances.
“There’s very few places that do that,” Jimenez said.
“Bands are used to playing in loud, smoky bars where they have to power over the noise. At this venue people are coming to check the band out,” he said.
So far four bands have appeared at Ignition Garage and he said their reactions have been very positive.
“The bands can’t believe that people are coming just to watch the show,” he said.
Jimenez wired Ignition Garage for sound and power and he said visiting bands have all the electronics they need already in place, and they have appreciated that and all have given positive comments on their visits to Goshen.
“I feel we are on to something cool,” Jimenez said.
Bands set to appear at Ignition Garage in Goshen are:
Friday — Hoots and Hellmouth
May 26 — The Vespers
June 16 — Tim Easton
June 30 — The Spring Standards
July 15 — The Lovelies
Aug. 18 — Brigitte DeMeyer
Aug. 29 — Will Hoge
Tickets available at Better World Books, 120 E. Washington St., Goshen. Call 574-534-1984.