Photo © Dave Smith, 2009

Twenty-seven-year-old Erin Case of Midland had been approached by a number of bands who couldn't find places to book shows because their sound did not fall into the type of thing that is usually played at bars in this area.  There were also bands who were just starting out and had no idea how to book shows.  When Case heard about a new performance space opening in Saginaw that was interested in hosting live music, she immediately got in touch with them, booked the grand opening night, and found a great spot to host a regular series.  "So BreakOut Night was born," she explains.  "I wanted to provide an outlet for anyone who wanted their art form heard."

The venue was the Hancock Theatre, and Case saw many advantages the space had over other venues.  "The Hancock has  a lot of different reasons for appeal.  The location is fantastic.  The acoustics of the high ceilings are also nice.  I also like that shows can be for all ages, where in most venues in the area they can't be."  They are also able to keep the door cost down to a thrifty two dollars per person.

BreakOut Night quickly became known for its all ages and all genres shows.  Case lists off: hip-hop, country, indie rock, pop, and experimental music.  "You could potentially hear them all in one night. Some of the performers are seasoned veterans, and some of them may be playing their first show."

The series became closely tied to the venue, so when the Hancock Theatre briefly closed, BreakOut Night also went on hiatus.  "I knew they would be re-opening sooner or later and wanted to keep the concert series there.  Robert Rindhage, the new owner, is also a big plus about the theater. He is super funny and really easy to work with."  BreakOut Night returned on Saturday, November 6th, and will be taking place on the first Saturday of every month from 7pm - midnight.

The Hancock Theatre

BreakOut Night not only promotes local young musicians, but it also helps aid in the return of the Hancock.  The space is owned by former Saginaw resident Donna Branch and Larsen Cottrell of Los Angeles.  They invested in the building three years ago with the desire to see some kind of art space open there.  Rindhage shares their vision.  "It's a gallery and performance space that offers something different than the bar and night club scene," he explains.  "In addition to displaying art, I would love to see music, live theater, poetry, and comedy nights.  Down the road, I'd also like to be able to show foreign and independent films here." 

The Mid-Michigan Movie Makers currently hold their monthly meetings at the Hancock, and Rindhage is open to having other groups using the space for meetings too.  He also hopes to provide community education classes.  Aaron Johnson, of Excalibur and Sprout, will be offering guitar lessons out of the theater, and Alex Alexandrou will be offering acting lessons.  Rindhage also sees art classes being available in the future.

"It's a gallery and performance space that offers something different than the bar and night club scene. In addition to displaying art, I would love to see music, live theater, poetry, and comedy nights. Down the road, I'd also like to be able to show foreign and independent films here."
Rindhage is open to suggestions from the community and the people who attend shows there.  "I came up with a saying, 'Come and see the show, or come and be the show,'" he laughs.  Some suggestions he has already received are for a Christian music night and for a country music night, both things he is willing to try. 

Though he is currently a licensed real estate agent, Rindhage has held a variety of jobs and never wants to have a "real" job again.  "I have a burning desire to make this happen," he says.  "With a small budget, things are starting off slow, but the word is getting out, and I am learning as I go along. It's all about meeting new people, networking, and really getting involved in the community." 

One of the people who he has met through this venture is Case.  "I really enjoy working with her," he says.  "She is truly an enthusiastic, talented, and free spirit.  And she is doing a great job helping out up and coming bands, giving them a regular space for stage time and exposure."

Not Your Typical Concert Promoter

Like Rindhage, Case sees great potential for the arts in the tri-cities.  In addition to BreakOut Night, she has put on a number of other shows under the name "e."  While she works as a custodian, she spends most of her free time booking shows, making fliers, promoting, hooking bands up with each other, helping with tours, and doing whatever else needs to be done, and she seeks no financial compensation for this work.

"I've been putting shows on since May 31, 2008.  I'm starting my college career in the winter at SVSU, working toward a BFA to apply toward my fashion career.  I barely scrape by financially, I live alone with my obese cat, and I have some level of social phobia.  I'm certainly not your typical concert promoter."

Unlike some other promoters, Case is not in it for money or popularity.  "I believe the arts should be flourishing more around here, that there's potential, and that the tri-cities need some scene building.  I'll do what I can to do my part to make that happen.  If one in each fifty poor custodians did what they could to make the tri-cities ripe with culture and art, we would already be there."  She adds, "People can contribute in whatever way they can ... I just have a flair for organizing."

And a flair for organizing she does have.  Since she started booking shows in 2008, she has hosted over 90 different bands, and many of those she has hosted multiple times as well.  She runs a venue, Last Resort, which primarily has shows during the warmer months.  During the off season, she books both local and touring bands at different venues around the tri-cities.  "I like to bring in outside talent as much as I can, and there are some things in the works right now to bring in some big named performers next summer."

Even though Case is in it for promoting the arts, there is one thing that would really help her out.  "It would rock my world if someone donated a PA system--that's what usually ends up costing me.  I can't afford to keep renting or scrounging for one."  While many of the events she hosts are free, Case will charge a cover when bands have traveled a long way to try to compensate them. However, she doesn't make any money to recoup her own expenses.

This hasn't yet been a setback for Case who describes her mission as "always booking more, finding places, filling niches, and wrangling 'woah!'"

The next BreakOut Night takes place on Saturday, December 5th starting at 7 p.m., and features Totally Boring (experimental, Mt. Pleasant), The Gray Twilight (indie/post-punk, Saginaw), Alexandre & His Apocalypse (acoustic indie, Midland), The Legend of Xero (pop, Saginaw), and Brian (acoustic rock, Midland).

To keep up to date on e. shows, visit the MySpace page.  To keep up with events at the Hancock Theatre Art Gallery, visit the Facebook page.  The gallery's current hours are Monday - Saturday from 12 - 6 p.m.

© Gina Myers, 2009