A New Shot of Musical Diversity: New Haven’s The State House Opens its Doors
Carlos Wells talks about the New Haven music scene the way an ornithologist might discuss the wingspan and flight pattern of an eastern bluebird. This is due in no small part to his extensive experience booking shows at venues like Cafe 9, BAR, Rudy’s, and Three Sheets, all New Haven haunts. Not to mention, Wells has a background in college radio, as well as his own small press label, Safety Meeting Records, the imprint he founded in 2004 that caters to, as Wells puts it, “wonderful weirdo and psychedelic records.”
Though not a musician himself, Wells clearly has a kinship with the artists he’s helped cultivate for the better part of his professional life.
“I’ve been around music and musicians as long as I can recall,” Wells says. “It’s hardly ever seemed like a job to me, but more like something I was meant to do.”
This certainly makes Wells’ newest venture a most befitting one in his career, a venture born out of years of hard work and a steadfast devotion to the New Haven music scene and its musicians. Wells, along with co-owner Slate Ballard, and talent buyer, Rick Omonte, has opened up The State House, New Haven’s latest concert venue. Located at 310 State Street, the nineteenth century structure, used as an industrial loading zone for the last number of years, has been completely gutted and refurbished. Serving wine and beer for now, The State House, which comfortably seats 250, will eventually apply for a full liquor license, which will mean they’ll serve food as well.
When asked about the impetus behind opening the place with his partners, Wells says he simply took stock of the local scene and saw the need.
“New Haven’s a great city,” he muses, “with great art and culture and diversity. But I wasn’t seeing all of that diversity represented in the live music scene. You can go to any number of venues and check out terrific bands, but there can sometimes be a sameness running through many of them. Essentially, we noticed entire genres of music not at all represented.”
The State House rectifies that. Ethiopian funk. Afropop. Heavy metal. Black metal. Hip hop. Gypsy rock. Psychedelia. These are just some of the genres audiences can hear this spring. With lauded international acts that have been acclaimed by The New York Times and The New Yorker (see Tyshawn Sorey, playing on April 3rd), The State House has procured talent from beyond the confines of its own backyard.
“We knew from the beginning that we wanted an international flavor to the acts we hosted,” Wells says, “so that’s become our focus. We’re definitely interested in local bands, but we’re stretching out and bringing in artists from all over the world as well. It’s very exciting for us, as well as the musicians, and great for the city of New Haven.”
With Wells as GM, Omonte as talent buyer, and Ballard as a combination of the two, the trio have already gained steady momentum in the time they’ve been opened.
“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Wells enthuses. “The artists have a place to play, and audiences have a new spot to catch a lot of bands they might’ve otherwise never come across.”
When bands aren’t performing, The State House is anything but dormant. It hosts events as eclectic as cabaret and burlesque shows to flea markets every other Saturday. But music is its mainstay. It’s what inspired three men – three men who between them have decades worth of experience in the industry – to come together in order to offer a small Connecticut city a most welcomed bit of art and culture.
To learn about The State House’s upcoming shows and events, visit their website www.statehousepresents.com.