Within five minutes of my arrival at the brand new Tucson Live Music Space, it’s clear that Billy Brooks loves what he’s doing. It could be the excitement with which he flits back and forth across the grounds of his performance space, flipping light-switches and evaluating the venue’s sound-proofing with the grin of a proud father. Or maybe it’s how aware and receptive he is of everyone in the room, answering questions about the equipment and interacting with the bands in a way that too few venue owners do. Brooks definitely loves the space. What he’s most excited about, though, is the music. “No matter what, TLMS is just about having a place for great music. No other agendas,” said Brooks. “I just want something music-centric.”
The space itself is something to be admired. For one, TLMS sits cozily between industrial businesses down Ventura Street off Stone Avenue, close enough to the street so that you notice it but far enough apart from anything else to ease the risk of noise complaints. Equipped with a back porch and band loading zone, the property is simple yet elegant. It even has its own parking lot!
Of course all of this would mean nothing if the performance area sucked. Thankfully, TLMS has that crucial element neatly squared away, with the bands and audience intimately set up in a stageless room that accents the loud guitars rather than muddles them. It’s just as well, considering that first and foremost Brooks is concerned with a pure presentation and appreciation of live music. The word “muddled” doesn’t belong at TLMS.
It’s a good thing then, that a space capable of such audial clarity has a guy like Brooks in charge, whose vision for a place of this nature has seemingly been clear for a while now. A proud Tucson local, Brooks ultimately sums up his relationship with the city, and particularly its music scene, as an unconditional one.
“I’m from Tucson, I love this city and the bands that we’ve got here,” he said. “In the end I just want other people to love it too, whether they’re from out of town or from right here in Tucson. That’s what I want to do with this place.”
While he may have had the idea for such a space already, the action didn’t come until earlier this year when news came of other local spots closing their doors for a variety of reasons. In an effort to maintain what those venues had provided, Brooks and a handful of equally motivated local musicians came up with the idea for TLMS, an all-ages community location inspired by a venue of similar nature in Pomona, Vince Lombardi High School.
After coming across the property where TLMS currently resides, Brooks went all in and got the keys for the place as quickly as he could. Even after having the keys for less than two weeks, he seems confident that TLMS will grow to encompass not only shows but “artist workshops such as songwriting or instrument lessons, so members of the community can all learn from each other.”
While this may sound ambitious, what’s truly remarkable about Brooks is he walks the way he talks. In April, he was responsible for putting together Tucson’s second annual Way Out West Fest, a three-day event that pulled in many bands from here and out of state in accordance with Brooks’ “music-centric” mantra. In addition to this, Brooks is quick to cite the many groups for which he’s booked shows and worked on records for, though his encyclopedic knowledge of DIY music hardly seems haughty. Rather, Billy Brooks comes across as a guy with both the passion and credentials to be capably in charge of such a space as TLMS.
The real star of the show, however, is rightfully the venue itself. TLMS boasts an open-door policy in an effort to create a safe, non-judgmental music space for its all-ages audience. Part of this includes keeping the shows affordable, with the price of most foreseeable TLMS shows being a mandatory minimum donation of five dollars. This open-door policy, however, also extends to the bands. Brooks explained that if any band or individual wishes to play or book a show at TLMS, all they have to do is talk to him or send an email to the space’s official email address, and they can be sure that Brooks and TLMS can accommodate.
Brooks hopes that with such a business model, TLMS might come to represent a truly genre-bending venue. His ultimate hope is that every show will feature a mix of big and small name groups of all kinds. By maintaining a healthy variety, Brooks said, “With this space we can actually create a musical pulse in this city, as opposed to a blip.” Until then, we can go to shows and optimistically hope that the Tucson Live Music Space becomes everything Brooks wants it to and more.
Tucson Live Music Space (125 W. Ventura St.) has its Grand Opening Friday September 7th at 8 PM.
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