Weekly Update – Fishtown Collective cleans up a space and opens the doors

This week’s Weekly has my article on Fishtown Collective, a new music and art collective which debuts with a concert and art show Saturday night.  Below’s my copy with some pictures.

Like many small groups, the newly formed Fishtown Collective is a friendship chain. It all started when 20-year-old Will Sacksteder, on leave from Temple University, got permission to use the empty loading dock at his dad’s Chalmur Bag Company on Front and Jefferson streets.

Fishtown Collective members Will Sacksteder, Max McCormack and Kat O'Brien the day I visited them last month.
Fishtown Collective members Will Sacksteder, Max McCormack and Kat O’Brien the day I visited them last month.

Sacksteder, who was in a death metal band for years, wanted a place to host concerts, and when the company vacated the loading dock, he jumped at his chance for a space of his own. Sacksteder talked with his friend, Victor Gennaro, a Temple theater major (now the group’s producing artistic director) and word about the space spread quickly among his college friends. Soon the vision evolved to include an art component and long-range plan for several concerts.

Collectives rise and fall on the ability of individuals to get a diverse range of jobs done. Gennaro and Sacksteder—along with Jillian Long, Kat O’Brien, Rob Stillwagon, Seth Schmitt-Hall and Max McCormack—divvied up the responsibilities: designing and building the stage, setting up a soundbooth and gallery, gathering the bands and artists, raising money, sending out press releases, getting permits and creating a website.

Fishtown Collective space. It's a huge industrial garage.
Fishtown Collective space. It’s a huge industrial garage.

“You have to really trust each other to get it done,” says McCormack, 19, the group’s public relations director and a Temple communications major.

The fruits of their labor will be visible this Saturday, when the Collective hosts its first major event—a show featuring art and music. Local bands Toy Soldiers; You, Me, and T. Rex; the Armchairs; and the Korfs donate their talent. Works by 10 artists as well as pieces by students from the City Year After School program at Feltonville School will be showcased before the concert on moveable towers designed by O’Brien to imitate the look of the Philadelphia skyline. Made of scrap wood, cardboard tubing and painted canvas, the towers will be placed beside the stage before the concert begins.

Kat O'Brien's plan for the towers to hold the art. She also made a model and was mid-construction when I visited.
Kat O’Brien’s plan for the towers to hold the art. She also made a model and was mid-construction when I visited.

All proceeds from art sales will go to the artists—no percentage will be taken by the organizers. “We’ll have grafitti artists, digital, traditional, photography, sculpture,” she said.   “Art makes people happy and has social impact,” O’Brien said. Her goal is to provide a venue for artists of the Fishtown community.

I met Sacksteder, 20, (the house manager), O’Brien, 23, (art director) and McCormack at the garage three weeks ago.  The four-ft. high thrust stage, designed by Joe Daniels, was built.   The bands, artists and permits were secured.   McCormack clearly had done his pr job.  But there was debris to haul away, a sound booth to build, lights to install and the gallery component to finish—to say nothing of the huge job of distributing posters and flyers to college campuses around town to get a crowd in.

The screech of the Market/Frankford El interrupted our conversation every ten minutes and I wondered how they could have a concert with that noise.   No problem said Sacksteder.  “We have 2000 watts and we’re pushing 110 decibels — we’ll be louder than the El.”

Sacksteder said their venue fills a hole in the Philadelphia music scene by providing a large venue – as large as the Trocadero — for young bands. “Any band would kill to play here,” he said.  “There’s nothing like this for young bands.  Fire and Pontiac Grill are tiny, tiny, tiny.”

The Collective envisions the space for fashion shows, film screenings, theatrical productions and, as their mission statement proclaims, “any new expression of youth and culture.”

Fishtown Collective Premier Gallery and Concert, May 9.  1425 Front St.  Gallery opens at 7 pm.  FREE. 

All ages concert starts at 8:30 PM $5  Tickets at the door the night of the event.