By Gregg Harrington
Point Park News Service
A few years ago, when friends Ian Shiver and Welch Canavan took a chance by moving to Braddock, Pennsylvania, a former steel mill town outside of Pittsburgh, they couldn’t foresee standing at a garage door leading to a punk show on a Saturday night in a desolate town collecting money for three out-of-town punk bands.
That is one portion of the work Shiver and Canavan have amassed as two members of the Some Ideas Collective, a grassroots and self-sufficient group of musicians and artists that not only book musical acts in Braddock, but also work alongside community members to revitalize the town.
“The purpose behind the collective,” Shiver explains, “is to take all of our resources that on their own wouldn’t necessarily be very much and combine them into something big, something hopefully great.”
These resources, which include physical, financial and mental, make up the Some Ideas Collective and give it the gas it needs to bring the group’s ideas to life. The collective is spread across the mile-long municipality, with most of its inclusive roster harbored in one house along Maple Way, with the Edgar Thompson Steel Building looming just a few yards away.
Although they didn’t know what to expect, they, along with a few other friends, moved to Braddock to start up Some Ideas. The Collective started in 2009 when its members moved from major metropolitan areas such as Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Richmond, to the nationally-acknowledged distressed area with a 2010 census of just 2,159 residents.
While only living in Braddock for roughly three years, the Collective has already brought much attention to the blossoming culture of the town, which includes more than just Some Ideas. The first annual Braddock Fest took place last May, assembled by 61B Booking, a separate entity that is comprised of the same people and falls under the general umbrella of Some Ideas. The two-day festival brought many renowned metal and hardcore bands to town such as Boston thrash titans Converge, southern metal legends Corrosion of Conformity, and newcomers Trap Them. The festival was also featured in the Pittsburgh City Paper, accompanied by an interview with Some Ideas member, co-founder of alternative fuel supplier Fossil Free Fuels, and president of the Braddock Economic Development Corporation Dave Rosenstraus, unofficially touting the event as his 30th birthday celebration.
Combining the attendance for both days of Braddock Fest presents over 500 people, something the Collective was shocked by in the best way possible. They could not have imagined when initially hatching the idea for the festival. And as Some Ideas continues to grow with each individual that moves to Braddock and becomes involved with the endeavors taken on, the already-established members are more than happy to receive the extra help for any overwhelming projects, which includes a community garden the Collective will be maintaining this summer.
“Anyone within our collective who is interested is welcome to operate within and be supported by us,” Shiver comments, “but Welch, Dave and I are the three that have shown the most interest.” He explains that Braddock Fest, the biggest undertaking by 61B Booking since its inception, took a myriad of helping hands to happen. “Everyone else has helped in different ways with different shows, and we’re hoping that continues.”
The March 31st at hip-hop studio Square One in Braddock hosts three bands from far distances: Cloud Rat from Michigan, Loma Prieta from California, and Birds In Row from France. The show has brought out close to 100 people, who have crammed tightly into the small, open venue. The good turnout guarantees that each band will earn enough gas money to get to their next gig. Almost everyone in attendance sang along to each band’s unique take on blistering fast hardcore punk music and expressed themselves through rapid motion from one wall to the other, flailing to the rhythm of the spastic metal-tinged punk being played. Each band expresses their gratitude to the Some Ideas Collective during their set, praising them for putting the show together and for helping them for this one night of their extensive tour schedule.
Square One is just one of the resources Some Ideas have at their disposal in the small town. They have regularly and effectively used Square One, the Braddock Library theater, art space Unsmoke Systems, an empty warehouse rented by the Collective that houses only a skateboard ramp and an ample performance space, as well as Collective member Dave Rosenstraus’ house and recording studio on Charles Way as show spaces for bands from all over the world.
“Eventually we hope that the project will grow to include a hosting of our creative efforts and possibly even a collective business that can sustain us,” Canavan explains of the overall plan to turn their small idea into something big. While there are no concrete long-term goals, there have been talks of opening of a vegan bakery and coffee shop along Braddock Avenue. And as the Collective grows as a business, the relationship between each member of the Collective also flourishes.
“My favorite experience of the Collective is growing together and becoming closer with each member,” says Canavan. “Some nights we just sit around and put each other in stitches. At those moments, I couldn’t ask for more.”