Living Lodge: A new type of venue for musicians and fans

It's not often that a friend goes to look at cabinets he found on Craigslist and you end up purchasing the five-story Masonic lodge that housed the cabinets a year later, but that's exactly what happened to Soapbox photographer Scott Beseler. The building in question is the Henry Barnes Lodge located at 231 6th Avenue in Dayton, KY. The 9,000-square-foot space was constructed in 1922, and is comprised of two theaters with balconies and a basement. It blends easily into a street of brownstone buildings, grocery stores and residential homes. Beseler renamed the building “The Lodge” after dismissing several options, such as “New Lodge” and “Analodge,” the latter of which was suggested to denote the focus on analog recording as well as digital options but, as Beseler points out, sounds cool until you spell it out or mispronounce it.

In a previous life, the building acted as a meeting place for the Free Masons until 2006. After the group vacated the lodge, Beseler became the third owner when he purchased the building in 2011. Since then, the self-described “huge supporter” of local music has been working to convert the space into what he describes as a rock-n-roll bed and breakfast meets art academy. “I want The Lodge to be a place where my local artist friends can come and do their thing without roadblocks,” Beseler says. “A lot of people have excuses why they can’t. I’m hoping this place will allow them to put up, shut up and produce. I want this to be a space where people come and get it done.”

It’s certainly a work in progress (“This place will be the death of me,” Beseler jokes). The brick outside may appear less-than-extraordinary, but the view from inside is filled with potential. While the top floor—the last portion of the space undergoing renovations—is covered in sawdust, the main theater houses a full stage of instruments and about 150 chairs that can be filled with audience members for a live recording. There are several makeshift bedrooms and enough space for one band to stay and record comfortably. The kitchen is adorned with intricate vegetable illustrations by local artist Sara Gelbert and screenprinted band posters from Powerhouse Factories that act as colorful wallpaper and double as a “who’s who” of bands that have crashed at the lodge, as well as other local talents. A spray-painted 40-oz. malt liquor bottle mural, a ping pong table and a pool table are located near a row of alphabetized lockers. Screenprinting equipment is harbored in the lower level and helps the locale achieve its goal of becoming an artists’ destination. That equipment will be put to use making T-shirts and band posters. According to Beseler, this is part of the effort to turn The Lodge into a “one-stop shop for musicians where they are able to print merchandise and tour posters, put together press kits and have promo photos taken.” The official opening is set for Spring 2014.

What is a rock-n-roll b&b?
While Beseler’s vision may seem odd to bands who haven’t toured abroad, the concept of offering bands a place to stay and a warm meal isn’t all that foreign in Europe. One example is Vera, the “Club for the International Pop Underground,” in Groningen, Netherlands. There, Beseler explains, community volunteers are cross-trained to learn all aspects of putting on a show, from operating the sound equipment to helping sell merchandise. In return for their work, the volunteers are allowed to use the facility and equipment to pursue their own creative endeavors.

The main perks for band members include help setting up and tearing down, meals (including breakfast the morning after the show) and lodging. In the U.S., Beseler says, traveling bands end up sleeping in their vans or crashing with people they meet following their gig. He hopes to emulate the kind of hospitality offered at places like Vera at The Lodge.

Not a musician himself, Beseler learned about these so-called rock-n-roll bed and breakfasts through his former roommate, business partner and longtime friend Dr. John Wirick. A physician by day, Wirick (whose stage name is Johnny Walker) is the former guitarist/vocalist for the band Soledad Brothers. Wirick still tours abroad with his new band Cut in the Hill Gang and is familiar with the superior accommodations. This month, Beseler accompanied Cut in the Hill Gang on its trip across France to help the band with its promotion and photography needs, but The Lodge idea has been a long time in the making. Wirick’s (Covington) apartment, where Beseler used to live before moving into The Lodge, is a Masonic lodge where Wirick sleeps on the stage. His goal was to have a project studio with a tape machine like the one in his apartment so that he could record tapes and take them home to work on. Wirick, like Beseler, is also passionate about treating musicians with respect.

“[When The Lodge opens, I’m looking forward to] treating musicians like something better than second-rate citizens,” Wirick says. “Most places don't realize that without musicians there are no customers. No customers equals no liquor sales. Quit biting the hand that feeds you.”

And the duo seems to be doing a pretty good job. Even before the official opening, The Lodge has attracted a bunch of under-the-radar attention from the likes of Pujol, James Leg, The Jacuzzi Boys, The Black Belles, Detroit Cobras, Those Darlins, The Ben Miller Band, DAAP GIRLS, performance artist Forealism Tribe and, most recently, Walk the Moon. Although the space isn’t finished, the hospitality is in full swing, and the bands, most of which haven’t paid a dime, are grateful for something a step above the usual floor-as-bed situation. Three of the bands have used The Lodge to record. Forealism Tribe filmed a video, DAAP GIRLS produced an album and video, and Walk the Moon recorded a slew of demos and used the space to rehearse before going on tour. Beseler also says he has a growing list of bands that are lined up to record after the construction is completed. And the popularity can likely be attributed to Beseler and Wirick’s focus on making everyone feel welcome.

“Clubs and promoters in the states suck,” Wirick says. “They should be ashamed of the way they treat musicians. I refuse to tour there because we are treated like crap by bottom feeders. In Europe, we get a hot meal, accommodations in hotels or at an apartment at the club—there is hospitality. In the states, we’re lucky if we get 10 bucks for a meal and a pitcher of beer. We usually have to sleep on a music fan's floor or a truck stop. We’re going to put promoters in the U.S. to shame.”

Follow the Lodge on Facebook.

Karli Petrovic
is associate editor for HOW and Print magazines. She contributes regularly to the HOW blog and tackles freelance articles in her spare time.

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