Shane Lawlor was hired only five weeks ago as part-time executive director of LkldLive, a high-tech performance space in downtown Lakeland, and he already has three events planned for the next few weeks.
First, some basics:
WHAT: LkldLive, a new, non-profit organization bringing music, arts and educational programs to a black box theater that holds up to 205 people. The venue will be available for other organizations to host events, although fees are not finalized.
WHERE: Studio B of the LkldTV building (formerly the Firestone building) at 202 N. Massachusetts Ave. The entrance to Studio B is along the wide sidewalk on the side of the building that faces the CSX tracks.
- Lawlor was sales and events director for the Polk Theatre until recently.
- Randy Borden, the founder of LkldTV and the owner of the building that houses both LkldTV and LkldLive, recently jump-started his concept of bringing a source of community-focused online videos and a performance venue to Lakeland.
- Chuck McDanal, former operations director at The Ledger, is president of the board that oversees LkldLive, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and CEO of LkldTV, a for-profit organization. (We will publish a separate article about LkldTV in the near future.)
McDanal touts the venue’s “full sound, full lighting, full video,” noting that pro-grade TV cameras will allow live streaming of events and 24-track recording equipment will allow bands to leave with documentation of their performance.
Said Lawlor: “A band could do an album release and stream it all over the world.”
Musician Aaron Marsh, founder of Copeland, a Lakeland-based indie band with an international fanbase, is a huge fan of Lawlor (“He has huge bandwidth for this”) and excited about LkldLive’s potential.
“Lakeland has never had a facility as professional as a music venue,” he said. Until now, the best place for bands to play locally had been Lillian’s Music Store, which closed a decade ago, he said. When it and other venues were open, he said, local bands flourished and more out-of-town indie bands came here to perform, and he looks forward to seeing that happen again.
While music won’t be LkldLive’s sole focus, Lawlor is well qualified to attract touring musicians because he used to be one.
Born 38 years ago in Nottingham, England, Lawlor (discography) played bass for Nick Armstrong & the Thieves (video), which toured with Oasis and Paul Weller. Moving to the U.S., he helped form Electric Touch (video), which recorded for Island/Def Jam and was based alternately in Austin, New York City and Los Angeles.
Now a resident of Lakeland — he and his wife, Laura, moved back to her hometown around the time their son, now 4, was born — Lawlor has reached out to music industry contacts to begin booking touring bands.
Lawlor says LkldLive “bridges a gap between smaller venues and larger venues” and he envisions it as an “umbrella under which lots of local arts organizations can shine and flourish. It’s a stepping stone for young musicians and actors to perform at high standards in their own community.”
Indeed, he says, he has been gratified by the number of young creatives who want to be part of LkldLive and have offered to volunteer there. Among his plans are networking events to bring actors, writers, dancers, musicians, artists and other creatives together to meet one another.
LkldLive got exposure to a crowd of about 200 Friday when artist David Collins used the venue to introduce his public art display “Clearly People,” created in collaboration with sculptor Meredith Pope and photographer David Dickey Jr.
Upcoming events include:
- Bite-Size Symphony Friday at noon. To honor Mozart’s 261st birthday, a string quartet of Imperial Symphony Orchestra musicians will perform his works and talk about his life and influence. Cost is $15 with lunch (Publix subs) or $10 without lunch. (Tickets)
- Swingtime Valentine Review Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. Similar to cabaret-style shows Lawlor produced at the Polk Theatre, this review showcases local musicians who coalesce around a theme — in this case, romantic jazz and swing songs. Vocalists include Brian Sutherland, Kristy Scott, Kristin Crosby and Sumner Curtis. Curtis will perform songs made famous by Chet Baker (including “My Funny Valentine,” of course) accompanied by trumpeter Paul Butcher. Other vocalists are accompanied by the Sourmash Swingtet and Jason Baker. Tickets are $25 for table seating and $20 for row seating.
- New Grenada Records Showcase Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m., featuring indie musicians MrENC, DieAlps, Fistful and Thoth. Tickets are $8.
With that kind of eclectic programming, Lawlor said he “envisions a lot of collaborations — putting people together who normally wouldn’t be doing things together.”
Lawlor said he’s talking with a local comedian about hosting a monthly game show tentatively called “Hold on! I Know That!” that would be recorded live with a studio audience and then offered online.
LkldLive will be applying for a license to serve beer, wine and mixed drinks as a performing arts venue, he said. In the meantime, Lawlor said he would like to contract with local vendors to provide beverages at appropriate events.
Revenue sources for the non-profit organization will include ticket sales, facility rentals, concessions, grants and donations.
Lawlor said he feels fortunate he saw the LkldLive job listing on Indeed.com because he’d been thinking about ways to create a venue like LkldLive.
McDanal, LkldLive’s president, is glad, too: “When we interviewed Shane, he had half a dozen ideas that showed he understood the vision and concept. He’s hit the ground running.”