For the five masterminds behind Wood Shoppe, one conversation was all they needed to discern a hole in the music market and find a way to fill it. The first Tuesday of every month, Zachary Cepin, Acacia Newlon, Wilson Zheng, Abby Sprague, and Robin Kim present a free concert at Brick & Mortar Music Hall, and they don't make a cent from it. The series -- designed to cultivate the local music scene as well as build the careers of up-and-coming acts -- is a nighttime gig the five got going just because they love music.
"If you want a music scene, you have to create it," Sprague says.
Wood Shoppe turns two years old this week with a lineup that demands attention. Songwriter Kevin Morby (Woods/The Babies) headlines the two-year anniversary edition this Tuesday, Feb. 4, where he is expected to croon painful folk-rock tales accompanied by haunting melodies. L.A.'s Avid Dancer is a solo psych-pop artist with bright guitars. S.F.'s Fine Points, a side project of Sleepy Sun, opens the night. And of course, the event would not be complete without a special DJ set by Wood Shoppe founding member Cepin, under the name DJ Zachary Carl-Os.
Cepin is excited about his DJ set, but everyone at Wood Shoppe is ecstatic with the health and reputation of their event. Wood Shoppe is doing bigger things, and its two-year anniversary show lineup is testament to that.
"We used to be more mish-mash, now we try to be good about having the right vibe and the artists make sense together so it makes for a good show," Cepin says. "Kevin Morby was the anchor to making this show."
And Wood Shoppe started off as just talk.
About three years ago, Cepin, a booking agent at High Road Touring, threw around the idea among fellow scenesters that there should be a free music event somewhere in the city. Little did Cepin know that Ticketfly account manager Newlon, freshly arrived from L.A., shared his sentiments. Newlon left behind what she described as a "really big community" in the L.A. music scene.
"All the venues had a Monday night free residency, and you knew that all your friends would be there," Newlon says. "We didn't have anything like that [in San Francisco]."
The two met through their underground network, and they talked music. Soon Cepin and Newlon riffed on each other's thoughts, and harmony struck.
"When we found out we both had the idea we were just like, 'Well let's just do this together,'" Cepin says.
In the fall of 2011, they decided to have a meeting with their friends Sprague, Zheng (who both work at High Road), and Kim, a booking coordinator with AEG Live.
"We go to a lot of shows, but we get in for free. Our friends go broke trying to get into all the shows they want to," Sprague says. "We like the idea of having this free series, similar to the ones we had seen in L.A. and New York."
The proposal for the free night was specifically modeled after events like School Night at the Avalon in Hollywood, and the free showcases at other L.A. clubs such as Bootleg Theater, the Satellite, and the Echo. The idea was to create an event that they themselves would go to, and where their friends would be each time. But it's also to give local and touring bands the opportunity to play an established venue where patrons can discover new music for free.
"Free nights don't come around that often, and for a place as high profile as Brick and Mortar, that consistently has touring bands, it's cool," Zheng says. "The nights are more and more packed. We've developed a little bit of a name for ourselves."
Brick and Mortar Music Hall was the first choice for Wood Shoppe residency. The location is prime, and it was a new venue at the time that was complete with a stage, professional sound system, full bar, and capacity of 250 people. To the organizers' surprise, the owners took little convincing to get on board.
Since the show is free, the night is sponsored by liquor endorsements, which the club pays out to Wood Shoppe to pay bands. After two years, the Wood Shoppe crew is able to put together more unified shows, and have started booking bigger acts. They focus on booking a headliner for each event and then let the rest of the show come into place.
With all of their accomplishments, including the big-name bill they have lined up for the anniversary show, what they are most proud of is the community they have built through their effort. Wood Shoppe hosted Foxygen's first San Francisco performance, which is one example of a band's introduction to the city; it has also seen little-known Bay Area bands such as Trails and Ways skyrocket to become local favorites and sell out ticketed concerts. The Wood Shoppe crew witnessed an engagement proposal onstage at one of its events, and the group is generating a following and helping to create a thriving music scene.
"It's a new music night, and it's a way to introduce artists to our city that might not be able to play a room that size quite yet, or could play a room that size but not do as many people," Cepin says. "They get to play in front of a somewhat built-in audience. It's building a community for music. That really was the mission."
The Wood Shoppe Two-Year Anniversary show is Tuesday, Feb. 4 at Brick & Mortar Music Hall. Doors open at 8 p.m. Show starts at 9 p.m. 18 and older. $3 Trumer Pilsner. And the show is FREE. RSVP at do415.