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Tuesday, 19 February 2013 10:34

Garagefest sets rock 'n' roll sails at the Heavy Anchor

Bruiser Queen, one of the bands playing Garagefest at the Heavy Anchor Bruiser Queen, one of the bands playing Garagefest at the Heavy Anchor facebook.com/bruiserqueen
Written by Mariam Shahsavarani
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"All the bands involved are genuinely excited about being involved. It's kind of something that's bigger than all of us," Matt Stuttler says of Garagefest, the three-day festival scheduled to take place February 21-23 at the Heavy Anchor.

Stuttler, the booking agent for the Heavy Anchor and a member of Burrowss, one of the bands playing Garagefest, came up with the idea after noticing there was a strong enough scene in St. Louis to support the concept.

"I noticed a lot of local bands in a similar vibe," he explains, "and I'd been wanting to do a festival, like an all-out fest, and get some good regional bands in that are somewhat garage rock-y."

He spoke with Austin Nitsua of Acid Kat Zine about the idea and turned it into a reality. "We just kind of got together and it was like, 'Okay, who would be cool?' And I talked to the guys in Brainstems and they're like, 'It would be awesome if we can get like the Brothers Gross on board.' And then Thee Fine Lines had played here two months ago with Bruiser Queen and the Brainstems. So it's a bunch of bands that have already played in the past couple of months, but I wanted to get them all in one spot. Just kind of let them get to know each other."

In addition to the three nights of live music at the Heavy Anchor, there's going to be a tape compilation that includes everyone involved and a special edition of Acid Kat Zine for the festival covering all the bands.

Jodie Whitworth and Josh Timbrook, the owners of the Heavy Anchor, are excited for Garagefest. "It's gonna be awesome, a great turnout," Timbrook said. "The bands are all kind of friends in the same scene." Though they pride themselves on only charging a cover on the venue side of their space to make the bar more inviting, they 're hoping that Garagefest will be large enough that they'll have to raise up the garage door that completes the wall separating the concert room from the bar and let the music and general vibe permeate the place.

The Heavy Anchor opened up almost two years ago when Whitworth and Timbrook decided it was time to do something about their idea of having their own business.

"Everyone says like 'Oh, we should open a bar.' And we did," Timbrook explained.

"It started out one night as 'Yeah, we should open a bar! Maybe that's what we should do.' We were out drinking," Whitworth recalls. "We just decided to do it. We got a little bit more serious about it and were like, 'Let's look into it and see if it's even feasible. We'll look at a couple of buildings and what all we would need to do and how much financing we would really need.' And then six months later we had a bar.

"We read a bunch of books about opening a business," Whitworth continues. "I remember I read like six of them, and they were all decent, but they were all saying the same stuff. That's why we just needed to do more field research. We even did surveys."

After extensive surveying of their friends and patrons at some of their favorite drinking establishments in the city, they set about creating their own place. They knew they wanted to open a bar in South City, and when they found the space on Gravois where the Heavy Anchor is now located, their plan fell into place.

"It was very bare bones whenever we first saw it and I don't think all the lights even turned on," Whitworth explains while glancing around the room. "It was completely white. Everything was white. The windows were even chalked out white. The physical bar was here but it was white, and then the stage was there and this garage door with separating wall, and that was pretty much it. But we walked in and looked at the space and walked out and were like 'This is it.'"

"We both grew up with music backgrounds," Timbrook says, "went to school for that kind of stuff, so we wanted to have some kind of aspect with that. Even small places have random shows, but when we found this place, it had a stage." "It kind of doubled our idea. Like, let's just be a music venue, too."

"We still consider ourselves a bar first and a venue second, but we like having the option," Whitworth adds.

If Garagefest goes well, they're hoping to do more events like this in the future, whether they be music-related or something more unique -- they've mentioned wanting to put on a carnivalesque variety show.

For his part, Stuttler hopes to put together more multi-day events in the future, as well as to use this as a chance to showcase what the Heavy Anchor can do within the larger regional music scene.

"I guess we're trying to get ourselves out there a little bit more with [Garagefest] to regional bands in the loosely defined garage genre to say, 'You come into town, we can put together locals. We have a base and reputation for this kind of thing we're doing.' It all depends on what's going on locally, what kind of bands are getting together and what kind of bands we can give a shot that don't have a voice at another venue."

Ultimately, Whitworth and Timbrook hope events like Garagefest will be good for building the Heavy Anchor brand as they approach the two-year mark. With a variety of regular events in addition to a host of shows, such as comedy nights, open mics and trivia, they're hoping that they'll continue to draw in new patrons.

"I don't think it's going to be a bar that's open for 50 years or anything," Timbrook muses, "but I think we'll have a pretty good run."

Garagefest takes place at the Heavy Anchor, February 21-23. Music starts at 8 p.m. each night.

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