New Spires Spaces OPEN-haus today: is this (and Stages nxt yr) the mid size venues we’ve been waiting for?

If u can attend: starting around 4:30 today, come by the old Artomatic building on 115 E. Church st – it’s been rebranded as New Spire Spaces (not to be confused with New Spire Stages – the old Frederick Cultural Arts Center on 15 Market St that’s set to activate next year while they tear down some walls & expand ceiling space for a 400 standing room multi-purpose venue).  Today’s open house will intro officially to the public what is in store as ‘Spaces’ already started hosting arts classes (pretty wide ranging and frankly – pretty spectacular programming).  Here’s some highlights of the new facility that will double as a art education & cultural event space:

  • Green screen room for film/production/YouTube broadcast quality classes
  • Recording studio for music, aforementioned YouTube classes & for Podcasting classes
  • Various sizes of rooms that could serve multiple functions, be they classes or intimate ArtHouse screening rooms for older and possibly even first run releases.
  • Dubbed the  ‘Great Room’ – it’s an approx. 150 capacity room for dance instruction/performances and music concerts (or even a 1st run indie film screening if it’s going to be BIG).  One can creatively think of any kind of event appropriate to the size of the room and book something there.

It’s the last 2 items that catches our attention immediately since WesternMachines has been all about culture pushing Frederick to another level via an appropriately mid-sized venue ( since like forever).  And it presents opportunities for all culture pushers, from all scenes (indie film creators — and folks in music scenes that typically get under-reported like metal or hip-hop) in Frederick, independent of New Spire Arts.  After a ribbon cutting opening ceremony, beginning at 4:45 and repeating at 6pm, Elizabeth Lucas – the artistic director for New Spire Arts will be presenting —well let’s let them describe what’s going to happen:

4:45 and 6 p.m. — Our Plans and How You Can Be Part of Them: Elizabeth Lucas will talk about New Spire Arts’ plans, from what’s available now to what the community can expect will come online within the next couple years, then will answer questions about working with us. Suitable for everyone, whether you want to teach for us, rent from us, present in our facility, or learn about what’s going on in your downtown.

And there’s another program at 7pm:

7 p.m. — Co-Presenting with New Spire Arts: Learn about how you can get involved as a presenter or performer. We will do a recap of our plans, then talk about how you can get involved in our curated performing arts series.

Register at

I wrote about New Spires Spaces (and Stages) for the FNP last Thursday, and I mentioned that Alexa Johnson – who started the rad house show venue The SQUAT with other Hood College alums – has been in conversation with Lucas about trying to replicate some aspect of the underground house show vibe at ‘Spaces.’  That conversation becomes even more prescient as the SQUAT’s lease is ending August.

There’s a couple of other aspects to ‘Spaces’/’Stages’ that is potentially positive for the Frederick music scene:

  • As Ashli Cheshire (of the indie rock band Cheshi) put it in the FNP piece: all music venues currently existing in Frederick now are bars first, with music as a afterthought. That affects some of the dynamics of putting on shows in downtown Frederick currently, with atmosphere and people’s focus being a challenge for bands to perform in. That’s not the case necessarily with Spaces (and Stages next year). ArtsFirst could be a new mantra – and quite possibly could fit in this new context.  That and the sizes of the bar/venues in downtown Frederick are usually too small to book certain kinds of national touring bands (with the Weinberg having the opposite challenge with over 1100 seats to fill).
  • Let’s stay on the bar/venue situation – it leads to college and high school kids getting shut out of shows downtown. Tentatively at Spaces – shows booked there can be / or at least should be all ages.  That may require more stringent efforts to self-police so this doesn’t get a rep for underage drinking to spoil the party for everyone, but getting ahead of ourselves – but the fact is the Artomatic Music shows (held in the same building on the 3rd floor gym) last year were an absolute all ages success – and few  problems resulting from the process (wristbands. It’s that simple. Yes it could be abused but 9:30 Club with 18+ shows utilizes handstamps under infra-ray.  Low % chance of problems with either system, both more or less work.
  • All music scene stakeholders can utilize the Great Room space. Metal/Hip-Hop/Electronic/Experimental, you name it – it’s built -so if you book it (and book it right -however you want to intrpret that given the size of the room) they will (hopefully) come.  If these various shows are successful – and this is the important partif these shows are packed, it will allow Lucas to show to the Ausherman Foundation (who has bankrolled the arts facility) that envelope-pushing music & film can work here and next year when they finish remodeling Stages on Patrick & Market st. 

And put this on yr calendar for July 19 – I’ll let New Spire say a few more words about it:


From traditional filmmaking to podcasting to new technologies like virtual reality, storytelling through technology is a constantly developing industry. New Spire Arts would like to explore how the performing arts and these new technologies intersect. However, developing a robust media education and presenting program takes time and resources. Join us for a conversation about what you are excited about. We will look at some examples of what others are working on and talk about how we might bring that type of work here, through teaching it, encouraging its production, partnering with commercial organizations, and more. Share your priorities, tell us what you can bring to the table, and help us develop a strong, innovative media education program.

Register at



Moving on, last Friday, too many shows to attend. I tried to transmorgrify but the damn machine in the cardboard box didn’t work so I could only get to the Slayground for their coup d’etat in booking Rozwell Kid to play a semi-secret house show there.  Rozwell Kid treated everyone as they start their national tour with an album release show.  True to the venue name, slay they did.  I don’t know – I’m not good with estimating numbers, but it looked like 100 people packed in the hot sweaty Slayground.  Atmosphere? hell yes.  It was absolutely encouraging to see all these people come out -and that gives me hope that Frederick is more than just a greying gentrifying exurban shell – that it has some goddamn potential to be a dynamic cultural city.


Rozwell Kid at the Slayground for their album release show. 6/23/17

This blurry photo above does NO justice in capturing what happened there.  Biking to the house, I arrived late 3 songs in and just as I was about to open the door inside, the power went out. Minor circuit break, an impromptu intermission and here’s the sequence I witnessed:

  1. door opens. literal steam from human sweat comes rushing out.
  2. people start streaming out, band members and audience alike to take a break from the sweat box. Smiles all around.
  3. and people kept coming out. That procession did not stop for several minutes. When the last person exited, I took a quick peek in at the setup.  Drums, amps, guitars precariously leaning and… a decent moderately sized bedroom. The question I asked: how on earth did all these people squeeze in there?!?  Logistics aside, it was a remarkable feat in of itself.
  4. Electricity restored, show continues. Bloody good rocking commences. Heads are nodding in sync.
  5. Set ends after about 5 more songs – it’s just too hot in there so they end a bit early but everyone is cheering full throated – having bared witness to a super dope house show by a WV band blowing up in real time.
  6. Orderly exit to the backyard, fireflies intermittently glowing all around, and…instant community as most stick around to talk about what they just witnessed in the cool June night.

No cops called. Neighbors were cool with everything – especially since Slayground show started and ended in a reasonable time frame for the neighborhood.

Good signpost for Frederick.  Look for a different POV from Chad Wilkes – he’s back from travels out west and while here temporarily in Frederick, will start freelance writing on local cultural matters. He wrote about this show and his unusual concert review  will appear in the Frederick News Post soon (at least I think it will be published soon).

Last postscript from the show: Rozwell Kid donated some money from the show proceeds (DIY house style – they passed around a bucket!) to Subversive Zine.  Cheers to Rozwell Kid!!!  (confession/disclosure: I’m part of the ad hoc Subversive Zine committee).  Subversive issue #2 is out now at a subversive joint near you.  Submission deadline to contribute to the upcoming #3 is July 1-ish – email to contribute.



I got a bit more to converse about but my time is up.  I’ll post soon about the Open House and conclusions from it later this week but I leave you with this insightful op-ed titled “Density Matters” from Matt Edens. He’s writes about true crime for TV, but last Friday opined about ‘micro units’ being built in downtown Frederick – designed to be affordable units for millenials who are increasingly being priced out of living downtown. This is vitally important as Frederick is trying to (or at least should be trying to) attract young people – and keep young people already here to stick around instead of fleeing to DC/Baltimore/Chicago/Denver, you name it.  Interesting facts:

  • “Currently, 20- to 29-year-olds still constitute the largest age group living in the core of downtown (25 percent according to 2015 census estimates). But 50- to 60-year-olds — prime empty-nester yearsare the fastest-growing segment, more than doubling from 6.9 percent of downtown’s population in 2009 to 17.1 percent in 2015 (the percentage of 20-somethings scarcely changed over that same interim),” according to Edens.
  • “The number of housing units in downtown’s core has also decreased: down to 1,052 in 2015 from 1,134 in 2010. And there are fewer for rent, too. Since 2010, the owner occupancy rate in downtown climbed from 29.7 to 32.8 percent. Downtown, it seems, is slowly becoming a neighborhood of older homeowners.” This is a trend Edens seem to regard as a concern – obviously something WM shares -particularly in this regard: young artists/musicians/filmmakers are gradually being priced out of the city- and I dare say most are probably looking around the nation to see what other options exist.
  • In a nod to both the young and old: “…not only do I think that downtown needs the energy and vibrancy that young people provide, perhaps more importantly, it also needs density to attract the sort of services that older homeowners desire.”

    That corresponds to why something like New Spire Spaces/Stages is important to keeping younger people in the city. From the FNP article:

    Referring to a long-term study about the environment businesses face in thinking about locating in Frederick, an immediate concern about the perceived lack of exciting cultural programming comes to the fore. “The Work Force Development Component, from what I understand, [said] large businesses are having trouble convincing young professionals to move here,” explained Lucas, “because it doesn’t feel like there’s enough. We hope we can fill that gap.”


    Ok I really have to go. Peace / Resistance / Bye !








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