An event space in Detroit that has until now been known more for hosting weddings and corporate events is gearing up to become what could be the city’s latest live music venue.
The Eastern, located at 3434 Russell St. in Detroit’s Eastern Market, is set to feature a performance by acclaimed Nashville-based indie rock artist Sophia Regina Allison, known by her stage name Soccer Mommy, on Friday, April 1.
“Yes, this is new for us and experimental at this point,” venue owner Scott Rutterbush tells Metro Times, adding that the show is through a partnership with Audiotree Presents.
“We are excited about the potential this has for both Audiotree and The Eastern,” Rutterbush adds.
The Eastern says metro Detroiters should expect more live music at the venue in the near future, provided it has no weddings booked, which it typically does on Fridays and Saturdays in May through October.
Audiotree Presents talent buyer Nate Dorough says that the Soccer Mommy show is the first planned under the new partnership, though more concerts are in the works. The arrangement could be a win-win for both Audiotree Presents and the venue, he says.
With a capacity of 600, The Eastern is a bit larger than a spot like El Club, which can hold 400, but smaller than a place like the Magic Stick, which holds 700. Audiotree Presents also books at the Loving Touch, the Magic Bag, and Otus Supply in Ferndale; the Sanctuary in Hamtramck; the Blind Big in Ann Arbor; and the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids.
“We have a lot of 200- to 400-capacity spaces, and I just need something where I could take a band that I’ve worked with over the years and grow them into the next size space,” Dorough says.
Plus, “I fill that void for the Eastern, [which] could easily book a Friday, Saturday, Sunday night,” he says. “I’ll take the tours that need a Tuesday night and plug them in there.”
The 5,000-square-foot venue, which opened in 2017 in the former Hook and Ladder House No. 5 and the Detroit Fire Department Repair Shop (the second-oldest standing fire station in the city, originally built in 1888), is known for its raw, industrial feel, with exposed bricks and a polished concrete floor. While it has a bar and a license to sell alcohol, it doesn’t actually have a stage — a temporary stage will have to be built for each concert, so Dorough says he would likely only book acts that he’s sure would sell enough tickets to make it worth the effort. Dorough notes Soccer Mommy sold out its previous show at El Club.
The venue also has a 3,000-square-foot outdoor patio and a roll-up garage door.
“We’re hoping to turn it into a thing where we do it semi-regularly,” he says, adding that they don’t want to compete with the city’s existing rooms. (However, booking agents previously told Metro Times that sometimes it feels like so many musical acts skip the city altogether on tours because its venues can easily get all booked up, a problem that has been exacerbated by the flood of tours booked following the pandemic’s pause on live music.) Dorough adds, “That’s kind of the goal here, is to take some of the artists that I’ve been working with for years and just have a cool space to grow with them, and then eventually I’ll lose them to the big boys.”
Dorough says he’s long had an affinity for offbeat performance spaces. In 2017, as the manager of the artist formerly known as Flint Eastwood and now known as Jax Anderson, he booked a gig in the ornate lobby of Detroit’s iconic Fisher building.
“I’ve always loved the fun of developing a concert idea in a non-traditional space,” he says. “I’m the type of guy that walks into the grocery store and is like, ‘Wow, I could put a stage up there.’”
He adds, “That vibe of walking into a space that wasn’t really created for concerts, but works in that way, it’s lightning in a bottle. So we’re just excited to give that a shot here and see how it all goes. And I think Eastern Market is such a great spot for it. It’s a great place to walk around and get food after a show, and just be part of the city.”
Tickets for the Soccer Mommy show are $25 advance, $28 at the door. New York City-based artist Peel Dream Magazine is opening. Tickets are available for purchase at audiotreepresents.com, where Dorough says information on future concerts at The Eastern will also appear.
Audiotree Presents is the live music arm of the Audiotree digital music discovery platform that books concerts in Michigan and Illinois. Former Audiotree CEO Michael Johnston, the son of Kalamazoo billionaire philanthropists and business leaders William Johnston and Ronda Stryker, grew up in Portage before moving to Chicago and co-founding Audiotree. Johnson was recently ousted from the company following allegations that he and his wife videotaped their nanny and her friend in a bathroom with hidden cameras.
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