The lights went low at The Gig Spot and chunky electric chords started ringing out before Caden Bonham, 13, shouted out, “I am Iron Man,” and his band, Cannibal Hamster, threw themselves into their cover of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man during Saturday night’s concert.
Caden, 13, is the lead guitarist in the band. He joins his sister, Maddie Bonham, 14; drummer Jarrett Siler, 16; and siblings Jessa and Jayden Moomaw, ages 15 and 14.
The members of Cannibal Hamster attend area schools Gig Harbor High School and Kopachuck and Goodman middle schools. The band performs mainly cover songs of hard rock artists such as Bon Jovi and Guns and Roses as well as 90s rock artists like Nirvana and Weezer.
Performing is an outlet for the normally quiet bassist Jayden.
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“I’m just a different person when I’m playing,” she said.
Caden lets loose when he plays guitar. With his long blonde hair flipping around, he plays guitar solos on his knees and spun around on the ground Saturday during the show. That’s what draws him to music — the expression.
“It lets me be myself,” he said.
For bands such as Cannibal Hamster, The Gig Spot is a place to showcase their talents close to home. At their show Saturday night, friends and family turned out to see their set and purchase merchandise like stickers and shirts.
The Gig Spot is the passion of Regan Balman, who also runs Regan’s Rock School upstairs at the building. For many years, he taught out of his house, but when the property with the theater space became available, he saw opportunity.
“It kind of opened up our view of how to really serve the community,” Balman said.
The space, at 6615 38th Ave NW, is a little off the beaten path. The two-story building, located behind the fields at TCC Gig Harbor campus, can be spotted from state Route 16.
Balman wanted a place where local musicians could shine away from the corner stages in bars where the music competes with the noise of clinking bottles and bar chatter.
“Gig Harbor hasn’t really had a dedicated music venue,” he said.
Balman uses the upstairs area of The Gig Spot for lessons as part of Regan’s Rock School. He has teaching assistants as well, among them “The Voice” finalist Stephanie Anne Johnson.
Balman has been involved in music his whole life. As a young artist he cut his teeth in the Seattle scene of the 1990s. What he didn’t realize back then was music was a business as well as an art form. His mission with the rock school is to expose students to the business side by teaching performance.
“The mistake I made as a kid was not seeing it’s a business as well as an art,” he said. “I think of teaching as my art.”
He’s been teaching lesson since 1995. He uses the venue to teach musicianship by offering a stage complete with soundboard and lights for students. The theater regularly host student showcases among other shows with traveling bands.
“It’s really the best part of what we do here,” Balman said.
The Gig Spot and Regan’s Rock School will host a student showcase on Saturday (May 2). Johnson will also play. Tickets are $10 at the door.
The Gig Spot is available for booking year-round. To book a show, contact Balman at firstname.lastname@example.org.