Joe Hammers, of the recently closed Pistol Social Club in the West Bottoms, was kind enough to take some time over the past few days to speak with us via Facebook chat. We talked about the Pistol, the plan for the club, and why it closed.
This seems like it was a really sudden thing.
The announcement was sudden. Pow. We reached the end of our five-year plan and achieved what the Pistol attempted, I believe.
What was that?
The Pistol established itself as a viable alternative space for likeminded contemporary performers. It was my interest to introduce Kansas City to national tours and vice versa...A certain kind of act thrives in this environment, makes a happening. It's something ephemeral that happened there.
By "ephemeral," do you mean fleeting, or do you mean intangible?
I knew we were a part of a five-year plan that I didn't let on to many -- so, fleeting in that sense. I tired of talking about real estate, and tired quickly. And intangible because somethinglike a reaction occurred between the guests, performers and space that created the Pistol and sustained it. Aaron Martin, Twin, Black Dice... Coughs -- created this kind of environment.
You wanted the space to be more about what happened there, rather than the building?
Oh, no. The beautiful space was essential. It commanded the best from the audiences and performers. Plus the acoustics are impossibly good -- it's like being inside of a giant's acoustic guitar. How could you not honor such a grand space? So, people did that. Our guests were always aware, conscientious.
You're moving on, however, I see -- already putting on Foundation Room shows.
Oh, don't say that. I'm not a promoter.
Not moving on...
Don't jinx it. Ha.
Not a promoter. More of a facilitator?
I titled it Director, Janitor and Executive Teenager.
That's a fantastic title.
Director summed up the roles served for the Pistol, which I accomplished the goals of with the help of volunteers. The Executive Teenager is retired.
Caretaker for the space and the patch of sidewalk on our block. Shows get messy. West Bottoms is messy.
You'd said you accomplished what the Pistol attempted. Was there anything that wasn't attempted, and you wish had been?
I have unfulfilled ambitions, sure.
Anything that sticks out?
That block -- the 1200 block of Union Avenue -- is historically significant in the birth of the Kansas City metropolitan era. I wouldn't call KCMO a metropolis today. However, Union Ave. today I envision as a homegrown entertainment block, like 18th + Wyandotte. It could be something of an Old Westport to the River Market's Plaza.
Do you have any plans or ideas to begin attempting a change like that?
I would imagine the Pistol, or some space, to hold the fort for D.I.Y./contemporary art culture. And not as a nightlife venture. These bars and franchises are beholden to the liquor industry...and the commercial papers, for that matter. I'd like to understand how bar venues work, but it was never my interest to operate one.
As far as an attempt -- I did! Already tried. As far as an attempt to change things, that is. I would've liked the Pistol to be a part of that vision, but we likely assisted it...Now, the Pistol signage may remain.
Really? To what purpose?
The sign is as iconic as any public art in the city, or that the city's commissioned for the Avenue of the Arts. It has a life as a sculpture. It's made by Burak Duvenci.
Thanks! I mean, what the hell is that Rodin rip-off thing. Cheesmo. It looks good at night, I guess. Damn it. Onward.
Do you have anything else you'd like to say regarding the closure?
I guess as far as the closure goes, the Pistol was a magical place, something of an anomaly, a haven. A beautiful room like that for young art and otherwise over-looked performers is an oddity locally and nationally. It's something that could have only happened in Kansas City and somehow, couldn't happen in Kansas City. At least, couldn't thrive. We're moving into a 'post-loft' culture, that started when Leedy-Voulkos changed its policies. It's just...people get the culture they earn or deserve. That's not a bitter statement...any of the installation shows at the Pistol are legend. So rad.