This South Tacoma all-ages venue hosts live music of all genres as well as community events, including the upcoming Little Fest.
For music lovers of any genre, nothing beats the energy and catharsis of a live show. I grew up going to all-ages shows with my parents, siblings and friends, which led to countless unforgettable experiences. However, when I was eighteen years old and first moved to the Pacific Northwest, I found it much more difficult to find shows that I could attend. Most bands I loved were booked at bar venues that didn’t allow entry to anyone under twenty-one.
Though I’m a few years beyond age restrictions being an issue for me, I remember those feelings of disappointment all too well. That’s why I still feel the drive to support all-ages venues whenever possible. Anyone who feels the same way should check out Real Art Tacoma, a venue in the heart of South Tacoma dedicated to all-ages shows of all genres.
Their upcoming event, Little Fest, is the perfect opportunity to see what Real Art has to offer. The festival, taking place this weekend, April 29 and 30, will double as a showcase of local music talent and a fundraiser to help keep the non-profit venue afloat.
When I went to the venue to speak to Daniel Rounds, Real Art’s non-profit coordinator, it was a bustling Wednesday evening. In the performance area, tables and chairs had been set up and filled by enthusiastic Dungeons and Dragons players. In the attached Beyond Thunderdome Cafe, a group of artists were hosting their weekly meetup.
“Real Art is for teens and youth to build their scene and have their own space that is there for them,” said Daniel, “We want people to express themselves the way they want to be expressed, and do it in a safe environment that doesn’t have the risk of other things.”
Daniel refers to the fact that Real Art Tacoma is a drug-free space. While beer can be purchased in the neighboring cafe, it cannot be brought past a small fenced-in area at the back of the venue (dubbed the “beer garden”). This policy helps to encourage safe consumption practices while keeping the main portion of the venue a sober space.
Real Art is also dedicated to the well-being of its patrons through its safer space and anti-discrimination policies. As stated on their website, “We aim to be a safer and inclusive space which means we do not tolerate things including but not limited to harmful, violent, assault (sexual or otherwise) racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, size-ist speech, behaviors or actions.”
It’s clear that the proprietors of the non-profit, volunteer-run venue are passionate not just about all-ages live shows, but community events of all kinds. Every Tuesday the venue features a rotation of all-ages events meant to bring people together through music: karaoke on the first Tuesday of the month, an open mic on the second, Rock Band (yes, the video game) on stage on the third and volunteer meetings on the fourth.
As a non-profit, it is the zeal and commitment of community members volunteering their time that keeps these events up and running. Daniel and company work hard in their free time to ensure that bands, show managers and sound engineers are paid fairly for every show played. In order to meet that goal, they organize monthly fundraisers on their Facebook page. But these alone aren’t enough to keep the venue going.
That’s where Little Fest comes in. The lineup is stacked with local artists of a variety of genres, from the pop punk stylings of Goodbye Viking to the circus-inspired electropop of nightmayor. If you’re looking for energetic alternative rock, come for Stargazy Pie. Fans of singer-songwriter indie pop should check out Zari Alexandria’s set. The intention is to bring together Tacoma’s music-loving community, all while raising money to help Real Art continue to flourish.
“This is mostly just to keep everything fixed and updated and running,” Daniel said of Little Fest, “We’re working on other programs as well.”
The Real Art team is interested in expanding the scope of the venue’s events. They already have a few community members offering to share their skills by teaching pay-what-you-can classes.
“We’re gonna soon be starting classes where it’s teaching about music industry stuff,” said Daniel, “I wanna try to bring in theatrical acts at least for a small [weekend] run.”
The hope is that the venue will be able to support arts events and classes of all kinds, not just music-related. The folks running Real Art are encouraging of anyone and everyone getting involved, and sharing their ideas and skills with the community.
For anyone who understands the importance of access to live music, the value of venues like Real Art Tacoma cannot be understated. Music provides us with escape from the hardships of everyday life, and experiencing great music live compounds that benefit exponentially. People who are under 21 (and over as well) deserve a safe space to have those experiences.
Lineup information and links to purchase tickets for Little Fest can be found at realarttacoma.com. Those who are interested in getting involved with Real Art Tacoma can also fill out a volunteer form on the website.