Men On A Mission: Two Small Business Owners Set Out to Bring New Life to a Small Town's Music Scene
Just off of highway 316, which (after merging with I-85) connects Athens to Atlanta, there lies the city of Winder, GA. It’s far from glamorous or exciting, and bears none of the characteristics of a bustling metropolis, but for 15,777 people (according to the 2016 US Census), it’s home. And once upon a time, it was for me as well.
I went to school there, worked my first job there, and started up my first band there.
During our active years, there were basically no real music venues in town. Sure, you could probably find a classic rock cover band performing Hotel California for the five-hundredth time on any given night at the city’s only bar…but underage kids with new songs in their hearts – with starry eyes and rockstar ambitions – had very few places to go.
For the longest time, this remained a dilemma for Winder’s budding musicians. Even by the time I graduated high school and moved away, nothing had really changed. But in the winter of 2015/2016, some hope for the next generation of creative kids appeared in the form of a coffee shop called Hometown Rhythms. Doubling as a laid back listening room (where music lessons are also offered) the shop has gradually established itself as an invaluable resource for local up-and-coming young artists, and a home away from home for those who want to see the arts community thrive.
When asked what compelled him to open Hometown Rhythms in the heart of Winder, the shop’s founder and owner-operator Keith Hogsed had this to say:
We had been looking to do something like this for a while. And we checked out a few different possible places, but it seemed like there was really an opportunity here…the town had no coffee shop, and only one other place where kids could take lessons, and not a whole lot of family-friendly places with live music, so we felt like there was a market, and there were enough people who seemed interested to justify opening.
An ardent supporter of local music, Keith has hosted numerous shows at Hometown Rhythms. However, these have usually been limited to a single performer or band, as it’s proven difficult to host a successful all original multi-act bill, the likes of which one would encounter at other, larger venues at the shop.
Enter musician, producer, and engineer Kyle Barnes.
The sole proprietor of Broadway Barnes Productions, a fledgling studio and sound business based in the neighboring city of Auburn, Kyle – like Keith – is an enterprising self-starter with a deep love for local art, who was once a Winder native, himself. And like Keith, he has long hoped to see the city’s music scene grow and come together.
When the pair met, they hit it off, and kept in touch. Eventually, the idea of trying once more to put on a larger scale local show – featuring performances from multiple notable acts with ties to Winder and its surrounding sister cities (Braselton, Statham, Bethlehem, and Auburn), this time featuring sound and on-site recording provided by Broadway Barnes Productions – came up. Mutually beneficial to both businesses, and more importantly to the local scene, it didn’t take long for the pair to set a date and get to work building a bill and sorting out logistics.
Keith: For a long time, we tried, but couldn’t figure out a way to do consistent big shows. It was a struggle. The difference this time is that Kyle is heading up this effort. I gave him some contacts, and he set to work.
Kyle: For me, it was a great way to get involved in the local scene again, after having left it a few years ago, and to show that you don’t have to go as far as Athens or Atlanta to find great local music. There’s a whole lot of really great artists right here.
On Saturday, June 30th, their vision will become a reality, as songwriters Josue Posada, Aaron Richard, and Tim Moore, along with celebrated up-and coming prog rockers Scarlette Saturn take the stage at Hometown Rhythms for the venue's first ever “local showcase”, performing intimate acoustic sets consisting of their best original songs.
On what the show means to them, and what they hope to accomplish by putting on such an event, Keith and Kyle had this to say:
Keith: You know, I think for all of us the goal is generating additional exposure – exposure to the businesses and the bands – it’s about making connections. I hope to see people start to seek out these musicians, and also, of course the businesses. Naturally, I hope it’ll be a good night for my shop, but in reality, this is also about expanding everyone’s audience and doing something for the community.
Kyle: I’m hoping, overall – like, big picture – to kind of help give the Winder music scene an identity…this town gets overlooked or written off a lot, and usually people don’t really think very highly of it. I’d like to see that perception change. It’d be awesome if this could be the first step in making people aware that there’s a lot of talent here, and getting them excited about local music. As a producer, I’m looking forward to hopefully making a few new connections and contributing to promoting these artists. Obviously, I’d love for it to help grow both my business and Keith’s, but the most important thing is bringing together people in the community and starting something for the arts here in a way that not a whole lot of people have before.
The Hometown Rhythms Local Showcase is free and open to the public. Music starts at 8pm.