The windows may still be papered up, but inside the nondescript building at 5412 South Tacoma Way on a Thursday night it looks and sounds like any music club — with one big difference. No one’s drinking, no one’s smoking anything, and the all-ages crowd is circled appreciatively around the stage, nodding heads in time to the head-banging, ear-throbbing punk chords that rock the room.
In fact, it’s so respectful, it feels a bit like being in church, and that feeling’s echoed by a sign on the wall that lays out the rules: “No Alcohol, No Drugs, No Sexism, No Homophobia, No Fatphobia, No Ableism.” It’s a new Tacoma music nonprofit venue called Real Art, and its goal is to bring quality music in a safe, respectful, all-ages space.
And it was founded by a non-drinking, punk-loving lawyer.
“There’s a real need here for a space like this where good bands can perform,” says Josh Brumley, a lawyer with tattooed arms who hugs friends as they emerge from Real Art for a between-sets smoke break. “Seattle has a real scene, but it’s all bars. That’s not the crowd we hope to nurture here. Tacoma already has plenty of bars you can go to. ... We want to offer music and socialization for young people outside of a bar.”
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Brumley isn’t new to the music venue scene. This is, in fact, the fifth space he’s begun. The last one — another alcohol-free punk venue called Viaduct — was actually in this same building before it moved due to high rents, and eventually folded with Brumley heading to law school in Florida. Three other earlier spaces were all shut down for breaking code — one of the reasons Brumley’s now a lawyer, he says.
But the difference with Real Art — which had its official opening Oct. 1 after a successful $15,000 Kickstarter campaign — isn’t just the no-alcohol, no-drugs factor. It’s also a 501(c)3 nonprofit, which means Brumley can partner with other groups for events: spoken word, guest speakers, youth band nights, even a sound engineer internship with the School of the Arts.
Meanwhile, Brumley’s sticking with his goal of bringing high-quality bands most nights of the week in all genres, from punk and metal to indie rock and country. Opening night last week saw two East Coast bands; this weekend features Australian punk band Extortion and Idaho band Hummingbird of Death, while Seattle indie rocker David Bazan comes in November. Brumley’s team has built a green room with video games and VHS, and they are planning on installing bunk beds for bands that need a place to stay.
The final piece will be the storefront partners. On one side, two local street clothing retailers (PolyRev and Electric Sex Clothing), and on the other an outpost of Northern Pacific Coffee Co., a music café stalwart near Pacific Lutheran University.
Brumley, a bassist whose band Cowardice is reuniting at Real Art in late October, doesn’t drink himself, which is part of his drive to create the space. But bringing music to youth is the main thing.
“There are almost no all-ages spaces with this quality music in Washington,” he says.
IF YOU GO
What: Real Art music space.
Where: 5412 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma.