OGDEN — Life doesn’t wait until age 21 to start.
Why should your rock band?
A small group of dreamers is looking to fill the void created almost four years ago when Mojos all-ages music venue in downtown Ogden closed down. At that time, Ogden’s teenage rock stars — those underage musicians too young to get into the bars — suddenly found themselves without a venue in which to hone their craft.
Now, Lyndi Perry and a half-dozen other musicians/music lovers are making plans to open The Co-Op, an all-ages performance venue that will provide a stage for acts not quite old enough to play the bar circuit. These volunteers are currently hosting a series of fundraisers at various bars around Ogden to further the cause, and they’re in the process of launching a Kickstarter project to help fund the venue.
“All of us remember playing at Mojos — except for one person, who was too young,” Perry said. “But I remember playing Mojos, so this is a little sentimental for me.”
Perry says it’s difficult to overestimate the impact Mojos had on a decade’s worth of young musicians in the area. An all-ages venue can offer valuable performing experience, and the lack of such a place in Ogden is “a hole in the pipeline,” according to Perry.
“There’s just a need for it,” she said. “It’s great that there are a lot of 21-and-older places in Ogden, but it’s hard for new bands to get into them if they’ve not had any prior experience.”
That’s where Mojos came in. Between 2005 and 2015, the small venue at 2210 Washington Blvd. — owned and operated by Ron Atencio — acted as a proving ground for young local bands and musicians. Mojos closed down in the summer of 2015, after Atencio says his landlord dramatically raised his rent.
Perry and Geoffrey Bilderback, who used to run the sound at Mojos, first started kicking around the idea of a new music venue about a year ago.
“Me and Geoff got coffee one day, and we were talking about how it wouldn’t be hard to build enough interest to get a new venue off the ground,” she said. “We knew there was interest, and people willing to put money toward it.”
The idea gradually picked up other local volunteers to form a board of directors of sorts — Eric Holmes, Alexis Astle, Collin Wheelwright, Tim Done and Matt Johnson — all of whom are intent on bringing the new Ogden venue to life.
Perry said they’re looking at real estate right now and should have a location selected by March. They’re shooting for a June opening date.
Perry says they’ve had some preliminary talks with Ogden City.
“So far, they’ve said they’re willing to approve a venue like this, depending on where it ends up,” she said.
On Wednesday, Ogden City planning manager Greg Montgomery said he hadn’t yet heard of anyone looking to open a new all-ages venue in town, but that such a business is certainly a permitted use for some zoning designations.
“I think the key is just finding the right building,” Montgomery said. “One of the things Mojos ran into was they were so small that they got more kids in there than the fire code allowed.”
Perry says they’re trying to involve the community in the project. Along with the fundraiser on the crowdfunding site kickstarter.com, they’re also selling CDs of songs donated by bands to help fund the project. Eventually, three volumes will be available for sale: a hard-rock/metal recording, a punk rock/indie CD, and a “chill, low-key” album, according to Perry.
And the next fundraising concert is planned for 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at Funk ’n Dive, 2550 Washington Blvd. Utah artists Earthworm, Folk Hogan, and Baby Gurl will perform, with proceeds donated to the new venue’s startup costs. Cover charge is $5.
Perry said she’s impressed with the way Ogden bars have shown support for an all-ages venue. She says they held a fundraiser last month at Brewskis, and next month they’ll do a similar concert at Lighthouse Lounge.
“These bars don’t see us as competition,” Perry said. “It’s good for them to build up a group of bands that will eventually be able to play in their bars.”
Atencio, who turned Mojos into a touchstone for hundreds — if not thousands — of young musicians, thinks the idea for the new venue is “awesome.” He knows many of the principals involved in the new project, and would be more than happy to help in an advisory capacity.
“It’s a lot more work than you think it is,” he warns potential venue managers. “I know I made it look easy, but I had a lot of help. And while I’ve been hit up many times through the years to start another venue, I’m not about to do it alone this time. I’m not going to carry it.”
Atencio says he knows there’s a real need for an all-ages venue, because he never set out to be a concert site. And yet, it still morphed into one. He’d just wanted to open a coffee shop with art and good food, with maybe a little music on the side.
“But the music exploded right from the beginning,” he said. “Bands just started showing up, so I finally said, ‘Let’s try it.’”
And before long, Atencio had built up quite a stable of young bands.
“We were booking three, four months in advance,” he said.
The key to a successful new venue, according to Atencio, is going to be “space and location.” He says one of the main reason Mojos worked was that he got “the right space for the right price.” The building’s owner didn’t need the income, so he gave Atencio a “really cheap rate.”
“We were in the black from Day One,” Atencio said. “If I had to pay more like what the going rents are now, we would’ve never survived 10 years.”
Atencio says it sounds like the Ogden group is doing it for right reasons — to develop musicians, not make money.
Perry echoes that idea, saying nobody’s interested in getting rich with The Co-Op.
“As we were starting to get this up and running, and deciding on a business model, we realized none of us on the original board are interested in making money,” she said. “We want the venue to be self-sustaining, and pay just enough for our efforts, but we’re not interested in this being a piggy bank.”
It was that approach that helped them name the venue The Co-Op, and it’s what gave the venue’s new logo a sort of Soviet-era vibe.
“Someone joked that we were being socialist, so the venue has a sort of a Soviet theme,” Perry said. “It’s got a countercultural feel, and it’s probably overly idealistic, but it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek.”
In addition to the log, each board member has been assigned to run a “ministry.” For example, there’s a minister of operations, bookings and sound; a minister of finances and labor; a minister of government relations.
Perry, who says she’s in charge of the “Ministry of Propaganda,” is the only Co-Op board member who doesn’t live in Ogden. She’s from Logan, but says Ogden is a much friendlier environment for her existential indie band Salduro.
“I have a band, and it’s impossible to get people out to shows in Logan,” she said. “But we go to Ogden, and people show up.”
And Perry believes Ogden needs something like a Mojos for underage musicians.
“I think there just needs to be a hub for it,” she said. “It’s easier to meet people in a place where you know they’re there because of the music. I think that’s a really important role to play.”
Perry said The Co-Op’s board has been considering a couple of different business models for the new venue. One would be the typical cover charge, where they pay bands a percentage whenever possible. The other would be to sell monthly subscriptions to patrons, who then get in free and get to use the venue as a community hang-out space.
At some point, according to a news release from The Co-Op, while the initial focus will be on live music there are plans to expand the space into motion/visual arts, classes, practice areas and other forms of community engagement.
“I’m just really enthusiastic about The Co-Op,” Perry said. “I’ve thought a lot about why this hole hasn’t been filled before now and I think Ogden gets overshadowed by Salt Lake, where people want to take their investment dollars down there.”
But Atencio believes there’s a better than average chance that The Co-Op will succeed.
“I know the magic was there when we were there, and it’s still there,” he said. “If they can tap that — and I’m sure they can — I think they’ll be pleased with the results.”