Making some River Wards noise

NKCDC-backed River Wards Sound Collective launches at the Boom Room.

Space for sound: Gary Dann mans the controls at the Boom Room.

By Aja Beech

Dozens of local residents braved the winter weather last week all in the name of music.

Last Wednesday marked the official launch event of the River Wards Sound Collective at the Boom Room.

Created by Kelli Walsh and Kae Anderson of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, the River Wards Sound Collective is a resource for neighborhood musicians, music industry people, and music-related businesses. Walsh is part of AmeriCorps VISTA, and Anderson is the commercial corridor coordinator for NKCDC.

Created as an economic development initiative of NKCDC to supplement visual arts programming, the River Wards Sound Collective founders thought local musicians were neglected under the burgeoning arts scene in Northern Liberties and Fishtown.

“Kelli, when she first started,” Anderson said, “recognized that we were promoting the visual arts, but this neighborhood has a ton of music that we’re not even talking about. In order to do something for the performance arts, and music in general in our neighborhood, as well as the music businesses, Kelli came up with the River Wards Sound Collective, and my background is in cooperative development, so we fused together the idea of building a business association of sorts for musicians and music businesses, to not only network with each other, share resources, but to label the area as a music destination.”

The associations already exist in much of the neighborhood for musicians.

A few people may hear about a recording or rehearsal space and share the information with other musicians, but the River Wards Sound Collective can offer something more cohesive, and, with its association to NKCDC, support for issues performers and business owners may not initially consider such as zoning assistance for DIY venues or Licenses & Inspections assistance.

Anderson was quick to point out that NKCDC will not dictate what would or would not be important for the River Wards Sound Collective. The local musicians would be the driving force behind it.

“One thing that is important to us as organizers is that it is as organic as possible and that it is controlled by the people it’s serving,” Anderson said, “So, even though we are facilitating this, our idea was to get everybody in the same room to start to talk to each other and decide what projects they want to work on. We really want this to be spearheaded by the community, by the musicians.”

The official launch party for the River Wards Sound Collective was held at The Boom Room, 1300 Front St., a recording studio, practice space and event space that offers live video streaming services. Performers included Teef, George Engel Brooks and Adam Ackerman. While some of those in attendance had heard of the studio space before, others were only learning about it for the first time.

Shannon Turner was one of the musicians on site.

A cabaret singer based in Fishtown, Turner regularly plays out in Philadelphia and New York with a variety of musicians and has recently started looking for a practice space in Fishtown area. She heard about the River Wards Sound Collective after needing a last minute sound engineer for a show the weekend before the event.

The Boom Room is within walking distance from where she lives, and she was excited to see so many things coming together in one place for local musicians like herself.

“As a cabaret artist,” Turner said “it’s important to be able to network with as many different types of musicians and artists as you can. Having so many different artists utilizing the same space fosters not only a sense of community but a sense of comradery, which is super cool.”

When asked about what really set the Boom Room apart for her as she shopped around for rehearsal spaces, Turner said that “their streaming feature ups the ante.”

The streaming feature, and everything else that happens at the Boom Room, is under the direction of owner Gary Dann, who opened his space for the River Wards Sound Collective launch.

“If you’re an artist or a musician, this space is just for us,” he said.

For more about the River Wards Sound Collective, contact Kelli Walsh at kwalsh@nkcdc.org or visit River Wards Sound Collective on Facebook. For details about the Boom Room, visit boomroomstudios.com.