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Reno music scene aims to create more space for younger musicians and audiences

A person playing the guitar and another playing the drums in a basement. There are tapestries hanging on the walls, as well as lights and spider webs from the ceiling.
Sophia Holm
KUNR Public Radio
Head Stone, a duo made up of Matt L’Etoile (left) and Jake Lorgé, play at Fort Ralston in Reno, Nev.

Reno’s music scene is bustling with younger bands and music fans, but many face a lack of places to perform.

In the renovated basement of Fort Ralston, a house venue on Ralston Street near the University of Nevada, Reno, concertgoers packed themselves as close to the bands as possible. Their goal was to get a good view of the stage, a small area near the back of the basement that’s stocked with speakers, microphones, and other music equipment. The costume party-esque show was host to a solo act and two bands, Head Stone and Evening Spirits.

Head Stone is a two-person shoegaze rock duo, created by Jake Lorgé and Matt L’Etoile. Shoegaze is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock, focusing on ethereal sound through obscured vocals, distortion, and playing with the volume of the music. It originated in the UK and Ireland in the late ‘80s.

Lorgé and L’Etoile have been playing music with each other since high school, when they formed their first band, Tresed. The music scene in Reno has afforded the two opportunities to make connections with other artists.

“We’ve been in it since like, 2016, 2015. Almost 10 years. I mean, we’ve never really had any issues; it’s always been a fine experience. We’ve met people, made friends, met a lot of really cool people in different bands. And there’s like a lot of love out there in the Reno music community,” Lorgé said.

While the members of Head Stone are old enough to play all venues in Reno now, they said there aren’t many all-ages venues for younger musicians who want to get their music out. When they were in high school, the two turned to The Holland Project, a local nonprofit that hosts all-ages shows at their venue.

“I’m glad we have Holland, because it’s a good all-ages place that’s very accessible,” said L’Etoile. “When we were younger, that was the only place we would play because that’s really all we knew, and it’s kind of hard to play in bars when you’re like 16 or 17.”

This sentiment was echoed by Evening Spirits, an indie band consisting of four members: Jonathan Grube, Jacob Manayan, Jude Lopez, and Wyatt Bonham.

Grube remembers how influential Holland was in his middle school years, before Evening Spirits was formed.

“I went to The Holland Project when I was like, 12, with my mom; I don’t really remember that much. But it’s been, like, present our whole lives,” he said.

Other than The Holland Project, there are house venues like Fort Ralston, but even house venues are a rarity for younger bands. The biggest issue the Reno music scene faces is a lack of access, said Holland Associate Director Alana Berglund.

“I think definitely lack of access for younger people who encourage the scene. I think a lack of space for people to practice and rehearse that are younger. There’s not a lot of houses with basements to play in anymore,” she said.

However, the Reno scene makes up for its struggles with a strong community.

“There’s struggles, of course, but I think we’re also actually really lucky to have this, and actually have something that larger markets don’t have, which is like a little bit more of a community where we know each other, we participate with each other, we’re down for each other,” Berglund said.

Evening Spirits and Head Stone also believe that the music scene in Reno is involved and makes the effort to support local artists. There are opportunities for smaller artists to get their work into the public eye.

“The nice thing about Reno is it’s not too oversaturated and big that people just go out because they want to see shows; they want to get involved in the community. It’s cool that people in Reno care about the scene. Like, I feel like it’s kind of nourished in that way,” Grube said.

As the music scene looks for opportunities to create more inclusive spaces for artists, other nonprofit organizations are seeking venues. Reno Punk Rock Flea Market is a community nonprofit based around supporting the arts and music scene in Reno, hosting weekend flea markets where vendors and musicians can promote their work in an all-ages setting. It’s an important way to promote inclusivity and introduce younger people to music, said co-founder Jessi “Sprocket” Janusee.

“It’s a really big deal for us, because we were those young punk kids. And we feel very strongly about continuing to create those spaces,” she said.

Janusee said the nonprofit is seeking out a venue to host more shows, and they will continue to promote newer artists in the music scene with their recurring show, Neutral Ground.

“Anybody could sign up to play. We give preference to newer bands, younger bands. And also a lot of them just know each other, right? And are connected. So one band will play and then they’ll tell their friends like, ‘Oh, you guys should play Neutral Ground,’ ” she said.

Reno Punk Rock Flea Market hopes to create better access to the music scene for people and bands of all ages. While it is a sentiment that The Holland Project shares, Berglund said the support for the scene is still strong.

“I do think the music scene here is actually really awesome and artists can feel that and see that, especially when they play at Holland or they play even a DIY show here. The audience is special; the audience is engaged; the audience is excited,” Berglund said.

KUNR's Sophia Holm is a student at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

Sophia Holm (she/her) is a Lake Tahoe resident with a deep passion for nature and an even stronger love for storytelling. She strives to provide KUNR’s listening region with strong stories about climate news, issues, and solutions as the station’s Summer 2023 Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D., Project for Visualizing Science Intern.
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