March 13, 2018

After the tumultuous end of my music career in Oxford, MS, I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. I had always thought about going to seminary, but that would take time to research where to go, to apply, and then begin my masters. As I looked into job options my friend Emmi, who was managing a spot in Jackson called Icon Art Gallery, told me that I should talk to a guy named Chane about this new music venue he was planning to open. 

I was not very familiar with Chane nor had I been to Swell-O-Phonic more than once or twice in my entire life, but with limited options I decided to give it a shot. When we got together Chane showed me a space behind his shops that was being turned into a skatepark/amphitheater style music venue. I had played in tons of skateparks across America over the years so I knew it was something that could work. Jackson was always hurting for an all ages venue. We had amazing young bands like The Weeks, who would go on to do great things, but who had no where they were actually old enough to play.   

 swell-o-venue, music in jackson ms, venue in jackson ms, skate park in jackson ms

I really liked the idea of an all-ages open-air venue in Jackson. I thought it would be a cool move for me because, though I wasn't in a band anymore at the time, I could still stay close to the scene and book all my friends from out of town to come play our new spot. Chane gave me the title "Rock & Roll Manager" and to this day it is still the coolest position I have ever held. 

The venue wasn't perfect. Since we were an outdoor venue we were always worried about the weather. More than once we had to pull everything inside the skate shop and play cramped shows with amps set up between clothing racks and drums behind the counter. We had our fair share of shows that no one attended. I remember texting all of my friends begging them to come see a random metal band that I knew they had zero chance of liking.

However, at the end of the day, we were creating something. We had a community of musicians and fans that was one of the coolest groups of people I'd ever been around. We got to host anything from metal, to hip-hop, to indie rock, to folk bands. You name it and we were open to it. Coupled with the Icon art gallery inside, Swell-O-Phonic served as a sort of arts center for Jackson. It spoke to our theme of staying outside of the box and never doing exactly what was expected of us.

the bridges, the bridges in jackson ms,

Over the several years Swell-O-Venue was cranking out tunes, we had some big names play. Some of my all time favorites were Jesse Lacey of Brand New, Kevin Devine, Jonezetta, As Cities Burn, The Ataris, The Weeks, The Bridges, State Bird, Discover America, Questions in Dialect, and Unwed Sailor just to name a few. 

robert chisolm, bobby chiz, jonezetta, tyler kemp,

I left in 2008 to attend seminary but upon graduating, I found myself back at the new Swell-O-Phonic - knowing that whatever lie ahead, I would always be the "Rock & Roll Manager." 

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