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Finding The Space

New concert, practice venue for musicians opens in Springfield.

Inside the long hallway that leads to a large concert room, it's easy to see that The Space has potential.

Four practice rooms branch off one larger room, ready for concert-goers and music lovers alike. The mostly bare walls are adorned with Led Zeppelin, Guns and Roses and Misfits posters, paying homage to legendary rock groups that influence some of the bands that will one day practice and play inside Springfield's newest venue for local musicians.

"The Space targets a younger audience than some of the other venues in Springfield," said Becky Mayer, one of four entrepreneurs who have banded together to create The Space. "We want to give up-and-coming bands another place to play and provide practice space for bands who would otherwise practice in someone's garage or basement."

Eventually, The Space will be able to provide a recording studio along with press kit-making services, said Gary Cantrell, another of The Space's founding members.

ABOUT A MONTH ago, Guy Perotti decided to follow through on his dream of creating a music space for Springfield-area artists by renting an empty facility next to his day job, a graphics company located on Electronic Avenue.

"I've joked around with the whole 'if you build it, they will come' thing," Perotti said. "I've been so fortunate that people have come out to help."

Many of the founding members of The Space learned of Perotti and what he envisioned through word of mouth.

"I met Sam on a whim. I handed him a flyer and he attached himself to this," Perotti said of Sam Shield, who has become the vice president of The Space. Two of the other members, Mayer and Cantrell, work together.

"My brother told me about this and brought me in, he's in a band that wants to use this place," Mayer said.

The four have spent most of their free time in The Space since early December, preparing for the opening night concert on Saturday, Jan. 14.

Perotti stresses that The Space is not trying to compete with some of the larger venues in Springfield. Instead, he wants it to be thought of as another place for bands to play and practice.

"It's a good problem to have, worrying about too many people wanting to be here," he said. Fire codes mandate that only 200 people be allowed into the concert room during a performance, and a show scheduled for Jan. 21 has already sold out.

"We're making this stuff up as we go along," he laughed, adding that as people call in to ask about renting practice space or what kinds of services are available, nothing is being ruled as impossible or out of the question.

THE OVERRIDING goal of The Space, Perotti said, is "trying to get things done to help local bands and musicians."

In the future, he envisions workshops where musicians can come together to collaborate on songs, or work together to find ways to complete one song if the writer is having problems finding that perfect chord or word.

"We're trying to do a lot of things to bring all aspects of the community together," Mayer said. "People can come here to practice, hear another band and decide to come see their show."

With the exception of Shields, the other three members of The Space have regular 9-to-5 jobs, meaning that their extra time is spent devoted to something they love.

"I didn't want my second job to be a job," Perotti said. "This isn't work. We all wanted to do something with our passion for music."

Eventually, though, "we will get paid," Shields said.

Perotti also hopes to see a community of musicians evolving, coming together to play and write and hang out in The Space.

"I'd love to see bands get into one room, hang out and talk and listen to each other," he said. "Most musicians around here already know each other one way or another, so how cool would that be for them to have a place to get together?"

One band has already taken to practicing regularly at The Space.

"My lead guitarist got a business card from his barber," said John Miele, a member of Ampt who stopped by to pick up some gear before returning to James Madison University. "We came in here and everyone was so nice, so we started to practice here while we were in town."

Ampt will return for the first concert on opening night, sharing the stage with a handful of other Springfield-area bands.

"We like it so much, we don't want to leave," Miele said. "This place is like a dream come true."

Some equipment, like amps and mixing boards, are available in The Space for bands to use while practicing or during shows, Perotti said, another way he hopes to be able to help bands that are just starting out.

"We're looking forward to having bands here who really want to play," Cantrell said. "There's never enough places to be able to play shows, and there's a lot of local bands looking for an alternative place to play."