TASI 30 Years: Band Nites

Art + Music = Good Marriage

A mob of teenagers gather in the dry, warm Texas night in downtown Beaumont. Death metal radiates from amps and speakers as the rock band thrashes their instruments. Sweaty bodies crash into one another and stringy hair whips into the darkness as heads bang to ear-piercing reverb.

Suddenly, there is a rumble —  purple flames shoot into the blank sky with poofs of white smoke canvassing darkened heavens, blocking out the troposphere.

“It was just dramatic,” Greg Busceme, executive director, said as he recounts one of the more memorable Band Nites of the infamous 1990s.

“It required shooting salt into the kiln, which causes a whole lot of smoke and a big purple flame comes out of the stack,” he said. “I shuttered down, and flames blew out of all the holes.”

He said working on his ceramics became part of the music show with patrons coming by to look at the white-hot insides of the kiln and gasping as flames shot in the air.

“It was just, really, a cool night — it was a lot of fun,” he said.

Busceme said everyone got very involved and were excited to be watching the kiln and have bands play at the same time.

“Usually, it is dead quiet, and I am by myself — alone,” he said. “And this time, they were with me until midnight-1 a.m. It created a lot of smoke, flames — everything.”

In the late ’90s, before the hurricanes, The Studio hosted band nights that were always held outside. They are now inside the pit, like a real gig, so there is a guarantee they won’t rain out.

Band Nite has gone through many changes. According to Busceme, it originated with local kids needing a place to practice.

While he had been working on a series of metal sculptures, he was approached by novice musicians about a practice space. He warned that he would continue grinding even if they were to practice in the space. The budding musicians didn’t care about the noise or sparks, and began to gather to jam at The Studio, then located at Neches and Milam.

“They would come and rehearse while I was grinding, so it began the idea that this could work,” Busceme said.

“It sparked it in my head — but it wasn’t until we were in The White House we started doing (legitimate) shows.”

Ritchie Haynes, formerly of the Beaumont band Train and Vain, was one of those “kids.”

“That was the first Band Nite to me,” he said. “We used to go with a whole crew of people on Sunday afternoons and evenings at the very original location.”

He credits Clint Deerborn, who rented a garage apartment from Busceme at the time, with getting miscellaneous musicians together for what was eventually dubbed the Sunday Jam Session that began in 1986.

Haynes said TASI was the first place he ever played.

The sessions were a “free jam” of sorts, he said. Some nights it might be 10 people, and some nights there was a crowd of spectators. Some nights it was just drums and guitars, and some nights they experimented with harmonicas and even toy saxophones.

“It was a freestyle, noise experiment,” Haynes said. “Everybody was just learning to play, and it was a venue where you could kind of find your feet. Most of us could play somewhat, but we didn’t have that much experience playing with other people.”

People interested in the same kinds of music could get their feet wet in the process of playing. Some didn’t continue past jamming, but some continued and formed bands, he said.

Train and Vain was formed out of the Sunday Jam Sessions.

When TASI moved to The White House location, the band actually rented a practice space at The Studio.

“That didn’t go too well,” he said. “It was too loud for the other artists. I think they were traumatized by us.”

Haynes is pretty sure his band was the first to play an actual gig at The Studio.

“Train and Vain came during the Alternative Show, which is kind of an outlandish kind of show,” Busceme said. “We realized it was a good marriage between the two.”

Haynes said they played toward the end of the opening while people were still looking at the art.

“It was majorly loud,” he said. “It was kind of a problem — but fun. There were a lot of older people that were tripping out because it was so loud.

“That was part of the art of it — we were a sonic assault.”

Haynes said that Busceme may not have known what was going to happen when he agreed to let the then-very-young rockers perform. It became a crazy experience, because there was a clash as art patrons were still looking at art when the music lovers showed up specifically for the band.

“It was actually a good thing — bringing together two types of people — that is what The Art Studio is all about anyway,” Haynes said.

The White House location is where musical performances started picking up, and eventually Band Nite was formed and officially put on the calendar as a once-a-month event.

“It was also something to sell a ticket to,” Busceme said. “So we could make money off it, too, and let all the local bands play. They wanted to play no matter what, so we said sure.”

He said many of the local bands started at TASI at a very young age.

The Studio decided the performers had to play original music. Busceme recalls one musician saying they only had one original song.

“We were like, ‘Well,  play it — now next time you get two songs, and you can stay up there longer,’” Busceme said.

Playing covers did not serve The Studio’s purpose.

“We want to hear your music, just like we want to see your art,” Busceme said. “So why would musicians play other people’s stuff? We don’t have artists showing other people’s art. So, if you are going to come in, write your own stuff.”

Busceme said Band Nite was held regularly every month.

“We had two stages with backdrops and films at the same time,” he said. “It was a crazy thing — now it is a little more organized.”

Just because there was an exclusive music night, doesn’t mean it was always smooth sailing.

“It was such a terrible mix in some ways,” Busceme said.

By the time The Studio moved to its current location, Band Nite seemed to be getting out of hand.

“It got to the point where the punkers were breaking things in the buildings and stuff,” Busceme said. “We stuck them out in the barn — we never let them in the building. In the barn or outside.”

He said for a while, there was such a drought that it was easy to have the bands outside without fear of a rain out. When the rain started happening, they sent them to the barn. Although patrons still had to walk more than 100 feet through downpours to see the shows, most were kids and didn’t mind. But live music being created in the barn also lent to the walls shaking and rust and dust covering everyone.

The Studio found bouncers to come and help out with unruly kids and underage drinking. The big change in atmosphere happened when Greg’s daughter, Olivia, took over — as a teenager.

“She came in, and she had been living through all this hell of Band Nite,” he said.

Olivia Busceme said her dad told her he used to bring her and her brother to Band Nite when they were “babes in arms.”

“So we did grow up wearing earplugs to Band Nite,” she said.

By the time Olivia was a teenager, antics were escalating. She was approximately 16 when she took over Band Nite.

“We banned alcohol and made it like a teen event,” she said. “It was a safe place to be.”

Everyone at The Studio agreed, and at that point they lost all the drinkers.

The Studio still has punk bands play, but it is not as crazy as it once was.

“We are more interested in Band Nites being based around music instead of getting wasted,” Olivia said.

The Studio has eased off the alcohol ban as music appreciators have emerged, but nobody is getting out of control.

“And we haven’t had a problem since,” Greg said.

Olivia said TASI is the place to go to show off your stuff if you are starting a band with original music.

“Any band that wants to play at The Studio can play,” she said. “We don’t have an elimination process. They don’t have to be good — we don’t have to like them.”

Families are invited to Band Nite.

“We are like, ‘Yes, bring your kid,’” Olivia said. “It is not some weird place you don’t want your kid going to. Your kids are OK in our hands. You can be an adult or a kid  — it is nothing to be afraid of.”

Greg said each person who took over the monthly event has lent a certain flavor to it.

“It did evolve, and it turned out to be wonderful thing,” he said. “But it had to go through that process.”

Band Nite is the last Saturday of every month with a $5 cover. Typically, three to five bands play each event.

For lineups, check out The Studio’s Facebook page

Jacqueline Hays
UP Contributor