BY SARA KAPLAN / AJT //
After one year in its cozy Hilderbrand Drive confines, Steve’s Live Music in Sandy Springs is gaining serious momentum with fantastic acts every night.
Atlanta Jewish Times: We know it’s been really exciting for you to celebrate your one-year anniversary at Steve’s Live Music. What has been your favorite part of this journey? And what keeps you coming back for more every day?
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Steve Grossman: It’s all about the music.
One of the things Atlanta is missing is live music venues. When I talk to musicians, they’re starving – not financially – but they’re just starving for places to play. A lot of them have moved to Nashville or Austin, where there are lots of music venues. All these cities have all these venues, and people can go out any night of the week to any of as many as 50 or 60 venues in a town and hear live music.
In Atlanta, the culture is just not there; the culture is still sports-oriented. Unless it’s something at Philips Arena, which is still live music but also what I’d consider an “event” as opposed to going out to hear something new in art form.
So what keeps me going is that I want these musicians to have a place to play. We started with five nights a week, running five shows a week, and we’re now running 12 shows a week. Every different genre is trying to find a place to play, and new artists need a place to be heard, so that’s what drives me right now.
AJT: Your venue may not be Philips, but you’ve done so well. What have been some advantages and the challenges that you have faced in this past year with your location and venue?
SG: The plus of my venue is the location is perfect because there is nothing in Sandy Springs like it. There really isn’t a venue in Sandy Springs as diverse as this venue. The challenge is that there hasn’t been this type of cultural form of art in Sandy Springs. So, as much as it’s needed, the desire for people to come isn’t there yet.
In other words, they like the idea of having a live music venue in Sandy Springs, but I think the most common line is, “We’re so excited to have a venue in Sandy Springs and we’re so excited for you, we’re going to try and get out there someday.” So, they’re thrilled that we’re here, but it takes time to change a culture.
[But] that was the first year. Now people are starting to show up, and the numbers are growing pretty quickly right now at the one-year anniversary. We’re starting to sell out almost every Saturday night now, and weeknights are starting to fill in. It’s very exciting to watch the growth.
AJT: So you spoke a little about the diversity amongst your acts, and the AJT actually covered Troika Balalaika’s appearance as well as Occidental Gypsy’s gig. You seem to pull in a variety of sounds.
SG: For the most part, these groups find me now. For the first month, no one knew I existed. Now, for every act that I book, I have at least four other acts that I don’t have room for. I have at least 1,000 people now that are trying to play here who haven’t even been able to get in the door.
The first year had 500 musicians that wanted to play here. There’s that many musicians out there that need a place to play. I can’t do too many more acts in a week than the 12 I already have!
AJT: Tell us a little about the thinking behind some of the community partnerships you undertook this past year, such as with the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival (AJMF) and their Jazz Night back in March.
SG: I’ve been partners with the AJMF since it started. I’ve been on the board for all these years. And actually, before the Festival started, I had my own local Jewish Music Festival here for two years in Atlanta to spotlight all the local Jewish artists.
I’ve always been involved in all types of culture, but obviously I have a love of Jewish music as well. So it worked out really well that Russell [Gottschalk, founder and director of AJMF] was doing a music festival, Thursday night became the Jazz Night, and this was the perfect location.
AJT: Let’s talk future. What’s in store for Year Two at Steve’s Live Music?
SG: We just announced that Wednesday nights are “Songwriter’s Showcase,” which is basically just a chance to get more people heard on Wednesday nights.
On Tuesday nights, we have our “hootenanny” night for people who just want to come and sing folk songs, anything from the ’40s all the way up to the ’70s and ’80s. Whether it’s Simon & Garfunkel or Woody Guthrie, we have someone who leads folk songs and you can just come in and it’s almost like going back to camp. We have guitars, banjos…it’s like stepping back in time around the camp fire.
And that’s going on while, at the same time, we have people on the deck picking bluegrass and old time music or Irish music. So it becomes like a “hootenanny” night because you can play anything you want in terms of traditional music or singing.
Also after the first year, we’re just getting bigger acts now, bigger names are calling me – like Randall Bramblett, who is one of the great songwriters of our day, calls me and says, “Hey, I want to play here.”
So it’s really exciting to hear, but you also need to get the new songwriters up there because there could be a 14-year-old new artist who comes up and plays and blows everyone away. That’s what really keeps me going, is watching this fresh talent and people bringing new fresh ideas in and it’s great.
AJT: What do you think Steve’s will be like five years down the road?
SG: Well, hopefully it’s right here in this room packed every night. We’re not looking to do any major expansions or anything.
The beauty of this place is that it’s just a 120-seat venue. People, wherever they’re sitting, have a good view of the stage, and it’s a great chance to see good art up close.
For more on Steve’s Live Music – including a full schedule and menu – or to buy tickets, visit steveslivemusic.com.