The Birth of a Music Venue



Last Spring the SageCliffe team put their heads together and decided to turn the cellar–a dramatic basalt-rock lined room off of the winery tasting room–into a music venue. 

It seemed to have all of the elements; terrific “no echo” acoustics, a size and shape ready-made for an intimate nightclub-type setting, immediacy to the winery for enjoying Cave B wine during the show….fantastic.       

And owners Vince and Carol Bryan had thought of, built, run and eventually sold the Gorge Amphitheater next door, so they had some experience in these things. 

But even so, how do you declare, create, market, and launch a music venue in the middle of central Washington?  Who should play there?  Where should they come from?  What genres of music should it be?  We did not wish to create a “mini-Gorge.”  Rather, the wish was to provide another kind of music venue; more like you would find at many a club in downtown Seattle.  But instead it would be here:  in Quincy.  150 miles from Seattle or Spokane.  At a destination winery resort. Would it work?  Would people want to come? 

When faced with the launch of a music venue, one thing becomes very clear very quickly:  it’s good  to have performers.  But where do you start?  How do you tell if they’re any good?  How to know if the eastern Washington audience would like them?   

It seems the wine and rock gods were looking out for us, or at least there had been a recent article on how wineries were the next big venue for musicians, because we began to receive emails from singers and songwriters. 

The first was from TJ Sherrill:  a Seattleite who wrote a very polite, very professional email introducing himself.  We listened to his tracks off his MySpace page.  He sent us a CD.  We listened to that.  We let him know how much we could pay, and he didn’t tell us to go jump in the Columbia.  So that boded well.   We named the venue performances Live! at The Cellar, and hoped people would understand we didn’t want them to live at the cellar. 

TJ did ultimately end up being our first performer in The Cellar.  He and his wife Jess arrived hours early so they could go on a tour of The Gorge Amphitheater with Carol and Vince Bryan, who entertained them with story after story about the first, early days at what used to be called the Champs de Brionne Amphitheater.  Jessie Colin Young was the first musician to play there–TJ later said hearing that, coupled with the later Bob Dylan stories and tales of all the other ensuing musicians who’d played at The Gorge, brought him to a state of acute nervousness before his own show in The Cellar.  But he told us that afterwards, good man.  For the show itself you never would have known.  He kicked off the venue well.  The room was nearly full.  People bought and drank wine, sat at their tables…and shushed each other. 

Somewhere along the process we had neglected to mention that these performances were to be lively; like a club.  You didn’t need to sit in silence, like at a classical music performance at a winery.  But it was too far into the night to change that particular perception, so the shushing continued.  Vince and Carol Bryan were shushed, which elicited chuckles from them and stern looks from others.   Hm.  Good show, but a little….”shush-y. ” There was more work to do.    

Were you at The Cellar for TJ Sherrill?  Tell us what you thought by leaving a comment!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.