Musician Rolf Petermann discusses DIY shows, SeedCo Studios and his small-scale record label
St. Louis native Rolf Petermann has been a staple in the Lawrence music and art scenes since 2004. He’s a member of the band Karma Vision, an organizer of shows at SeedCo Studios, and founder of Whatever Forever Tapes and the Pizza Power series.
Tonight, Karma Vision is performing at SeedCo Studios, 826 Penn., along with local folk and bluegrass band Monzie Leo and the Big Sky and Colorado band Bearsnail (Petermann described them as a "folk-punk duo"). The event is hopefully just the beginning of a monthly after-hours Final Friday event that will feature a preview of the upcoming month’s artwork (at two floors, the warehouse provides an urban feel of an art show) and some music.
I chatted with Petermann earlier this week to discuss his vision for SeedCo events, the nature of DIY shows in the local music scene (think shows in a house, gallery or studio), and the charm of warehouse shows.
Bands and the DIY environment: “The bands kind of pick themselves for that scene. The bands know they probably won’t make as much money as they could at a bar potentially, but they’re kind of willing to sacrifice that for a really good atmosphere. A lot of bands will be interested in doing both—a DIY show and a bar show, so they get the best of both worlds.”
Pizza Power and the DIY scene’s appeal: “We’ve kind of been jumping around locations. We did Wonder Fair for a while as well, which was really fun. They were really nice hosts. [Wonder Fair owners] Paul and Meredith are very supportive of the DIY approach to the music scene. Nothing against the bars—we love playing at bars—it’s just nice to have alternate environments. It just kind of seems like people pay more attention to the music if it’s a one-off location where the main reason you go is to see the band.”
His record label, Whatever Forever Tapes: “It’s pretty small-scale, tape-based— hopefully someday vinyls, too, once we get enough dollars—but for now, cassette tapes are pretty affordable, and kind of fun. A little bit nostalgic, also. Connections through friends is kind of the main theme more so than a specific genre, but it’ll tend to be kind of experimentally geared. It’s still all rock-n-roll for the most part.”
Musician CS Luxem’s involvement with Whatever Forever Tapes: “CS Luxem is always jumping between different cities, so he’s a nice representative to have on board. He’s definitely been a spark from the beginning. I’ve been playing music with him for years. He was actually one of the founding members of Karma Vision. He’s a really good bridge to the Brooklyn DIY scene.”
The Wednezdaze series that debuted this week at SeedCo Studios: “It wasn’t intended to be [a regular thing] and then all of a sudden we started getting a bunch of requests from touring bands. So we thought we’d go ahead and make a series for it for the fall. It doesn’t necessarily have to be live bands every Wednesday. One of the ideas was a bike-in movie... [we want to] make use of the big space and the projector and the PA for other kinds of events.”
Hosting shows in warehouses: “I’m pretty excited for seeing this east Lawrence Warehouse District evolve and develop. I have a soft spot for that warehouse thing. I grew up in St. Louis, which is full of big warehouses and loft spaces, so it’s nice to have that urban feel and that flexibility within a big space, where you can make it feel like a new space with every show. It’s super accessible in terms of still being a part of the downtown culture. You can hop around between the bar scene or the warehouse scene or your house.
It’s nice with this because you don’t have to worry about noise complaints with neighbors, which was an issue for us in the past. There is something that’s nice about that living room feeling in terms of feeling really comfortable, intimate.”