Rockin’ the years

TASI’s Band Nite has history of fostering local talent

Put Downs guitar player and singer Paul Johnson.

Paul Johnson of the Put Downs.

The 33 years of TASI history is like that of many 30-year-olds: Time spent in the trenches building your brand from the ground up and reaching a point where it’s ready to take the step up to the next level.

For the last nine years or so, the face of TASI music has been Olivia Busceme, daughter of founder Greg Busceme and Ange Scheibel, and has built a reputation as the reigning the goddess of live, local music events in Beaumont.

“I originally began organizing band nights in 2007 to help The Studio raise money. Eventually, it turned into a great way for people to hang out and be a part of their community,” Busceme said.

In 2005 Hurricane Rita’s path of destruction hit and left The Art Studio among its victims and left it in a tougher financial situation than usual. The studio struggled financially for many years after Rita and later, Hurricane Ike compounded issues, as it tried to repair damages and maintain operations and events.

Olivia’s interest in music was all about just helping The Studio out of a financial crunch, but it opened a door for her to follow her passion for music that the public has a chance to enjoy as well.

“I’ve always really liked music and I really like seeing music in person, live. I saw the a chance for people to come out and see music or make music and support The Studio at the same time,” Busceme said. “It wasn’t until later, it became a local, live music thing, a kind of movement that is growing here.”

The mission statement of The Art Studio has been to provide a space for artists to work on their art, whatever medium they choose and the studio can sustain. Band Nites, as they are currently called, are just another continuation of that mission.

“Beaumont has a lot of talented musicians making music,” Olivia Busceme said. “But a lot of people have felt discouraged because they aren’t ready to play in a bar or because they felt they didn’t have any place to play.

“The Studio is a unique place for musicians that maybe aren’t completely developed yet, offering a safe place to play. It’s a place where they can learn how to put on a show, set up a stage and have an audience that is friendly to them.”

Busceme said the benefit of TASI versus other venues is that lineups are different, and bands play with bands that they normally wouldn’t play with so it exposes their music to new audiences.

Singers from Mad Maude and the Hatters.

Mad Maude and the Hatters.

“Younger musicians can’t get booked at other venues because of their age, or if they can, their friends can’t get in,” she said. “Band Nite has mixed audiences, all ages and no age requirements. It’s common to see mixed crowds of 13 year-olds with parents or grandparents coming to see their grandkids. Everyone can feel comfortable and people like it — it’s a safe place and everyone is welcome here.”

TASI has always been a place to learn for all artists of all kinds. In addition to the musicians and bands playing, a new wrinkle for learning has emerged as students from Lamar State College-Port Arthur sound engineering program have come to the studio to learn and practice their skills with running sound for the shows.

“It’s a great opportunity for us and them,” Busceme said. “A real-world experience where the performers benefit from quality sound and the students get a chance to learn. The challenge has been that many venues won’t just let someone walk in and run their sound equipment. The LSC-PA program teaches the students to setup equipment and engineer the sound through all aspects of a performance.”

For the future of Band Nites, the mission will remain the same and plans include continuing to address some of the issues leftover from the two hurricanes.

Band playing Band Nite.

Band playing Band Nite.

“Hurricanes damaged the outside shed so bad that it had to be torn down,” Busceme said. “Our goal is have a new outside building that would allow music and theater performances to be played in an air-conditioned space, as well as have a storage area for equipment and additional rest rooms. We eventually would like to have our own PA system and seating of some kind.”

Currently, musical acts must play in the gallery area, one of the classroom areas or outside. This can be a logistical nightmare when running power for stages or just the rearranging of studio areas and equipment, Busceme said.

“The challenge for booking shows during the gallery season is that if there is art in the gallery, we can’t use the gallery for the show because of the artwork. The art takes precedence. We want to have one a month. We still have our outdoor stage, but we’re at the mercy of the weather and it makes setting up the sound more difficult,” she said.

Busceme said Band Nites are a way for people to get involved with The Studio.

“We could use volunteers to help with the door,” she said. “They help us man the gate and pick up equipment and clean up after the shows. It’s a great way to see a good show for free and really get to see all aspects of a show before, during and after.”

Artist and musician Greg Landry has had a long history with TASI, and from his current station as bassist for the Static Kings, he has a very distinct insight into the history of the studio and its place on the local music scene.

“I’ve been playing music since 1980 and my first band, The Cretins, was formed in 1987. This was before Band Nites and young bands didn’t really have any place to play locally. There were some dive bars, but those can be tough because most of the regulars at those places just want you to play cover songs,” he said.

Landry can recount the time when local bands usually played the Perch at Lamar (now Mirabeau’s) or the Setzer Student Center Ballroom.

His connection to The Studio began when a friend, Frank Patrizi, introduced him to The Studio’s poetry magazine, “Thoughtcrime,” around 1987 or 1988.

Buffalo Blonde playing at The Studio.

Buffalo Blonde playing.

“The Cretins were punks, ’60s-style garage band. We played our own music but we also did some Sex Pistols and Ramones covers. Around this time the Beaux Arts Ball was happening and we were asked to play. It was a masquerade ball at the Rose Room in the old Hotel Beaumont. We all dressed up like dead musicians, it was great,” Landry said.

Although Band Nites didn’t officially exist The studio began having occasional times when bands would play after exhibition openings starting when the studio was at its original location on Neches Street.

“I remember Terri Fox had asked us play one night during an exhibition at the Neches Street location,” Landry laughs as he recounts one occasion. “When we turned on the amps you could see a look from some of the older patrons. We were just too loud. We stopped playing for awhile until the older folks left and then played some more.”

When The Studio moved into the old White House location and there was much more space than the previous location and the idea was promoted that TASI should do more to incorporate music into its mission.

“The Studio had the idea to have bands rent practice space and have a place to store their equipment,” Landry, who by this time had joined in the founding of local music legends Train in Vain, said. “We would practice in the middle of the week. Once again, we were just too loud and people would be down there trying to paint and we would just kind of blow them out.

“No one ever complained to us directly, but you would kind of get looks from people when we were practicing. I’m pretty sure they complained to Greg (Busceme). We all kind of agreed, that it probably wasn’t the best idea to have a jam space where people are working on their art.”

Sinister Sirens playing on The Studio's outdoor stage.

Sinister Sirens jamming on the outdoor stage.

Landry said one of the best things about The Studio is that it is a perfect place for a new or young band. While around Beaumont there are now one or two places that have an open-mic night, and there might be a 20 minute slot open for someone to get up, you usually don’t see a full band perform during those type of setups.

“The Studio opens people up to something they would not normally see,” Landry said. “Music is different than other forms of art. A painter, for example, is not necessarily going to copy someone else’s work like a Picasso or something. It tends to lead people to be more individual. However, with music, most musicians or bands learn by starting out copying the music or songs that they like.”

Beaumont’s live music scene is more diverse than ever and both Busceme and Landry agree that TASI has its roots in that development and remains one of the best venues to hear live music.

For information about upcoming show or booking check out the Art Studio Facebook page or contact The Studio at www.artstudio.org.

Stephan Malick, ISSUE staff writer

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