By Dylan Skeffington
Tucked Away in the staging area of Rolling Bay Hall, behind the Island Music Guild, the small concert venue possesses a speakeasy vibe, the kind of place you wouldn’t have known about unless someone told you. And yet, despite operating for just two years, Space Craft is already recognized as one of the best places to take in live music not just on the island, but in the surrounding area, as well.
“It’s not a traditional venue,” explained Jim Anderson, a music industry veteran who acts as adviser for Space Craft. “It’s a place people go because the music is primary.”
The space—where one can “craft,” hence its name—is specifically designed to be more intimate than a typical venue. The audience is situated closer to the stage, the band members intermingling freely with the crowd whenever they’re not performing. “It’s better when you can meet the musicians, have a beer with them,” said Morgan Terry, Space Craft’s founder. “You make a lot more friends that way, and it’s more fun in general.”
Space Craft’s summer 2016 lineup brought a range of bands whose styles varied from rock to gospel and most things in between, including some emerging local artists like Liz Vice and Lemolo. Any given night is guaranteed to deliver excellent and surprising music.
According to Terry, the organization’s goal is “to curate the best music in Seattle and bring it here.” Successful by many measures, Space Craft has already attracted a variety of regional bands, some of which have gone on to wider acclaim within the industry.
The sister trio (and a Spotify Spotlight 2016 artist) Joseph, for instance, played its first gig of a national tour at Space Craft earlier this year and then performed in June on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
Staffed entirely by a team of volunteers—some of whom work nearly full time—Space Craft keeps its ticket prices relatively low at $12 to $15 in order to allow access for anyone wanting to attend. As such, even with some sold-out shows, the revenue from ticket sales covers only about 40 percent of the nonprofit’s overall costs, the rest coming from fundraising and sponsorships.
It takes a significant amount of time and effort to put on the shows, both up front and behind the scenes. Terry recalled that the venue
was in talks with Ben von Wildenhaus—who describes his performances as guitar noir, profuse sweating and international balladry—for over a year before the actual show became a reality in June.
To organize four concerts a month during most of the year, the work adds up quickly but not enough to dampen the staff’s obvious and abiding love for the music and the atmosphere it generates.
“When you eliminate the business piece of it, the need to make money, then you boil it down to its basic essence, which is just putting an art frame around the music,” said Anderson, describing the collective’s philosophy of putting the music first. He cited that philosophy as integral to Space Craft’s success.
Another element of its success is the organization’s practice of treating the musicians who play there very well, arranging housing and providing food, adequate pay and even ferry fees—something that many aspiring musicians will attest is not always the case. A usual night ends with the staff, the musicians and maybe a few friends going out to the Pub (which sponsors the bar at Space Craft) for a few drinks and a late-night snack.
Space Craft’s reputation as a great place to play has led to a number of Seattle bands reaching out, allowing the young venue to book bands that might not otherwise make the trip over or that it could not normally afford.
Although Space Craft’s solid success might not yet be described as meteoric, its vision indeed feels celestial. Artists and audiences alike
can agree upon the void it’s filling—a long overdue, out-of-this-world musical experience without ever leaving the rock.