Ghost Light venue offers creative outlet for artists

The strum of guitars, the beat of the drum and the sound of the violin filled the dark and intimate room of the Ghost Light concert venue as multiple bands from folk to rock took the stage.
Pete Pfeil, associate director of operations and production, worked alongside David Avelar II, operations and production technical assistant, to begin a new scene for the local community to come listen to music.  Focused towards college students, the Ghost Light concert venue became a new spot for rising musicians to take the next step in their music career.  
“The Ghost Light is a great opportunity for individuals to seek out music of many different genres,” said Maria Pizzati, a sophomore business major who attended multiple concerts. “It’s also a great way for bands or solo performers to get their name out and light that flame of passion everyone has over music. I enjoy listening to live music no matter what genre it is.”
The Ghost Light takes place on the conference room stage of the Columbia Theatre once a month   on Thursday nights with an entry fee of $7.
This past 2014 spring semester was the jumpstart of the Ghost Light venue, working as an experiment to see if the venue would be popular and should become a regular part of Hammond nightlife.
“The moments I like most about the whole experience is how intimate the bands are with the audience. They will answer any of your questions after their performance,” said Pizzati.  “I like how instead of having to drive all the way to New Orleans and listen to a band, I can just stop by the Columbia Theatre only a few minutes away.”
Avelar worked on researching and finding musicians to perform at the Ghost Light, scheduling three to four artists each concert night.  Avelar wanted groups to perform that had a certain level of quality and made sure to choose that level of talent to ensure the Ghost Light became a good venue, as well as to maintain a level of trust between those who attended.
The Ghost Light is not only a place of entertainment, but also a place to help artists on their journey and give others a first chance to perform.  With the great sound, location and look of the Ghost Light, the venue is a grand location for up-and-coming musicians.
“I was blown away by the quality of the production and the professionalism.  I’d play there again any day of the week,” said Nathan Heck, bass player for Yo, Picasso, a group who performed at the Ghost Light. “My knock against it would be an over reliance on the bands for promotion.  But, that really is a fairly minor issue, and we had a good turn out when we played there.  Overall, it was by far the most professional and friendly rock venue I’ve played at in my five plus years of active playing.”
Both Pfeil and Avelar mentioned the high quality of the Ghost Light, especially for artists beginning their career.  Not only does the venue offer the band a set pay, not determined by the door tickets like many venues, but the Ghost Light provides a unique space for artists because it is part of the well-known and appreciated Columbia Theatre.
“I think what most impressed the band about the Ghost Light was the professionalism and helpfulness of the sound and stage crew working there,” said Adrian Rotondo-McCord, the guitarist and trombonist for Yo, Picasso. “We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived, and were greeted with a dressing room with free drinks and a detailed schedule of the evening, which makes everything easier and less stressful for us.”
The theatre building offers rooms for the bands to congregate, a lobby and more.  Avelar mentioned he received only positive feedback from artists so far, even on slow nights.
Although the comments from attendees have been positive, one of the challenges of the start of the venue has been the small number of attendees.  Pfeil mentioned how one night attendees reached almost 70, while for other nights the numbers stayed between 10 and 20.
Avelar believes that despite advertisement, the general community does not know about the venue.  Avelar, who comes from a town where music venues were always busy, explained how he knows the Ghost Light has the potential for success.
With showtime set for 7:30 p.m., the venue can be a good location for those who want to visit other outings in Hammond, such as bars, later in the night.  When thinking of what to do on a Thursday night, Avelar wants the Ghost Light to pop into the heads of students and community members.
Pfeil mentioned that another possibility to the problem of low numbers is that the venue does not sell concessions.  He hopes to maintain an atmosphere where music and appreciation of art are the priorities, but has yet to decide on what, if anything, will be changed for the future of the Ghost Light.
Pfeil hopes the venue will continue, but mentioned that it could end if funding is removed or proceeds do not increase.
There have been many locals performing from places such as Lafayette and other bands, as far away as North Carolina.
Pfeil was impressed with River Whyless and how they took advantage of the Columbia Theatre and lobby.  
River Whyless went above to connect with the audience and took the concert into the lobby of the theater at the end of their show.  This was one of many memorable moments of the Ghost Light.
“My favorite moment overall was when River Whyless brought the crowd out to the lobby and sang without all the sound equipment, it was just their raw voices and their instruments filling the night with such a wonderful sound,” said Pizzati.
Others who have performed at The Ghost Light include England in 1819, Jason Martin, Startisan, TANDEM, Modern Language and many more.
The next show will feature local band and winner of KSLU’s Battle of the Bands, Will Vance and The Kinfolk with The Family Reserve on Saturday, May 10.  The show will be a CD release and is Saturday, rather than Thursday, requested by from the band.  Will Vance and The Kinfolk are a blues and folk rock band from Louisiana and emerge folk, soul, southern rock and alternative style into their music.  
To learn more about the bands, visit the Columbia theatre website at columbiatheatre.org.