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Interview: Charm City Art Space – 7 Years and the 1000th Show (w/ Mike Riley)


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MP3: Sick Sick Birds – Your Machine from Heavy Manners 12″ (2009)

On a particularly idyllic and cool fall evening this week, I sat on the steps of Charm City Art Space with founding member Mike Riley (the Spark, Pulling Teeth, Toxic Pop & Firestarter Records) to reminisce and reflect on the past, present and future of the iconic, long-running DIY venue.

They celebrate a mind-boggling 1000 shows this Friday with a secret, 5-band line-up.  It should not be missed.

Doors at 7PM. All ages and donations appreciated, as always.

Aural States: To start, can you flesh out the circumstances leading up to the genesis of CCAS?  What factors contributed to you and the other founders’ desire to start up the space?

Mike Riley: Well since I moved to Baltimore in ’94, I went to UMBC.  I grew up in central New Jersey and there were shows left and right, bands I wanted to go see all the time.  When I came down here I didn’t have a car.  This was obviously not pre-internet, but pre the explosion of the internet.  My AOL search for Baltimore hardcore was this band called Compression, who are far from a hardcore band.

There were hardcore bands in Baltimore, just bands weren’t on the internet yet.  So I was lost as to where the shows were happening in the area, I couldn’t find any info on the Loft, or anything in the area.  So I decided I’d bring the bands in myself.  I started doing shows at UMBC in ’97.  Did them there for a while.  Then a friend told me about a space near University of Maryland, which was at the time the Supreme Imperial.  I got involved with them, they let us rent out the space.  Eventually when they got evicted we took it over.  That became the Chop Shop.  At that time, I met my friend Mike Wolf who had just moved to the area from Pittsburgh.  Well, not just, he had been here a little while.  He was involved in a space in Sowebo called Black Aggies, which was also the Laff n Spit.  So we just became friends, kept in touch over the years.

Fast forward to 2002, and neither of us have regular show spaces to work with.  DIY spaces.  I was doing a lot of shows at the old Ottobar and the Sidebar.  But we just wanted a non-bar venue where music was the focus.  Mike and I met up at a show at the Bloodshed, a warehouse space on Preston.  They had just moved in there, it was a cool, great space but I guess since people were living there, they didn’t want to do more than one show a month.  Mike and I were talking that night and we decided we really needed to get a space together, that’s smaller and can help out smaller touring bands.  So Mike found this place for rent in the City Paper Classifieds.  We came and checked it out, and downstairs it was all walled off into little, separate rooms.  Upstairs was a wig shop that had just closed down.

We thought, this’ll work.  It was cheap.  We tore down all the walls and that was our basement space.  To come up with first month’s rent we got in touch with everyone in the Baltimore and DC area that we knew who might be interested in a space like this: “We’re trying to raise money for security deposit, rent.  Help us out.”

We got over $1000 in donations, anywhere from $20 to $150.  And it’s never had to come out of pocket since. Read the rest…