Reactions to People's closing
Reactions to People's closing
People's Court owner Tom Zmolek broke the news to me in an email. So we'll start with his lengthy statement on why People's is closing.
Tom Zmolek, owner of People's:
This decision has not come lightly but it has been coming for quite some time. I have decided that its time for me to retire from the business. As you can imagine this has been a very tough decision for me to make.
Concert promotions are a young mans game these days – and I am no longer a youngster. When I started in this business back in 1988, I was a Junior in college at Iowa State I was bold and cutting edge and pleased a heck of a lot of people with some outrageously crazy concerts but its time to pass the torch onto the other (younger) promoters in town and let them work their magic.
Of course – the first question is going to be did the opening of Wooly’s have any effect on People’s closing. To this I can say that the current climate of the concert industry (low ticket sales) and the fact that the local market is over-saturated right now has been a part of what made me come to the decision to close but its not the only factor.
More importantly – I needed a change in lifestyle – I have been working bar / concert hours for 24 years now – in at 10am gone at 3am – get up the next day and do it all over again. I see what I have in front of me if I continue to work this crazy schedule and that’s an early onset heart attack from working 15-20 hour days and drinking 7 red bulls a night just to make it through.
I used to “do it all for the music” and the sad part about this is that I often find myself no longer enjoying the music. After 2 ½ decades of promoting shows (well over 5000 shows collectively) it has turned into just “business” for me. That’s not why I got into it.
I once thought that if what I was doing impacted just 1 person – just 1 concert goer that experienced their favorite new artist for the very first time or if they were moved enough by a show to buy a t-shirt of the band to remember it – or came up and thanked me for bringing the act to town - that it was all worth it. When I brought that feeling to hundreds or thousands of people – well you can imagine what kind of happiness that brought me. But I have found myself these past few years – nervously counting ticket drops and bar sales and merchandise sales as if that was what was important about the shows and to me that’s NOT it. When it ceased to be “all about the music” is when I knew that it was time to be done.
The opportunity for me to get out came at a pivotal moment in my decision making process. I cannot tell you what will become of the physical space that People’s occupies but People’s on Court will cease to exist as of next week.
I want to thank everyone in the community that has supported me and live music in general over the course of the last 24 years. There are so many people that have been so appreciative over that time period and that’s what I am going to miss most.
I don’t know what my next adventure will be – I am going to take some time off to reflect on my future and hopefully another opportunity will come along that will be equally as rewarding as People’s has been for me.
Sam Summers, co-owner of Wooly's and a regular concert booker at People's, including a sold-out Macklemore show scheduled there for Dec. 4, which will be relocated:
I feel awful about the venue closing, because I care about Tom a lot. He basically helped me move it to the next level in Des Moines. Him opening People's in Des Moines and letting me do shows there helped me get going in Des Moines. Obviously, I'm really grateful for Tom. There are too many bad people in this business. He's not one of them.
Jason Walsmith, co-founder of The Nadas:
People's and Tom Zmolek launched our career. Tom mentored us in the business in a big way. He taught us how the entire system worked and also took us serious enough to lead us to believe we could do this on other places. People's was our training ground. But beyond what he did for us, he built an entire live music appreciating culture in a Ames. I can confidently say that People's put Iowa on the map for live music.
We had the honor of playing the last show at People's in Ames. We wrote the song "Good Night Girl" about People's. It personifies the venue into a girl, but it's really about People's. We wrote it for the closing and debuted it that night. We then opened People's in Des Moines. People's sort of grew as we grew up. I owe him my career.
Here''s a video of "Good Night Girl" that served as a eulogy for the Ames People's. It works well for Des Moines as well:
Rick Dressler, guitarist for The Sundogs:
The Sundogs go back to 1988 with Tom Zmolek, the year we formed, before he opened People's in Ames. He had a little club in the basement of that building called the Underwhere and we used to play there. I remember one time there was a huge storm, with a wild downpour outside and the place flooded. It looked like the Poseidon Adventure at the back door and we got all the equipment up on tables just in time as water swept across the room. Crazy but fun.
Tom was always good to us and we had the privilege of being the first band to play at People's, the big club he opened upstairs, with the great staff, sound system, big room, and people to go in it. Lots of good times there. He gave us lots of shots, including when we were able to get back together again last year at People's Court in Des Moines. The Freak Week Reunion gave a number of Ames bands from those days an opportunity to get together and play again. We liked it so much, we decided to keep it going. So, we owe him that, too, and he had us back a number of times.
Besides playing there, we saw so many good bands at People's at both locations. Burning Spear, Dread Zeppelin, Government Mule in the early days, Parliament/Funkadelic, and the Tom Tom Club, just to name a few. The man knows music. While it's a little sad to see the end of an era, we are also happy for Tom. It's a tough business, so many risks you have to take, unbelievable hours, a lot of unknowns. It's gonna wear on you and we salute Tom for being adventurous, taking care of himself, and striking out anew. We'll always appreciate what he did for us, we wouldn't have had the run that we did without him.
Martin Zellar, Minnesota singer-songwriter who has played People's as a solo act and with Gear Daddies:
People's has held a special place in my heart for over 20 years. It was one of the very first clubs outside of the Twin Cities that embraced us, and I've never forgotten that. I have a lot of great, though often blurry, memories of our shows there over the years. Very sad news.
Shelley Jaspering, founder of the Iowa Jam Band Society:
Being from Ames, I was disappointed when People's left and opened in Des Moines. The Des Moines venue had more possiblities for larger bands, so I was happy to see what might become of it. They have had some great shows over the years, including some of my favorite jambands. I just hope this isn't the end for them completely and that it doesn't hurt the music scene.
Amedeo Rossi, owner of the Vaudeville Mews, Des Moines Music Coalition project manager:
They were one of the first venues that was able to bring in some bigger acts. There were some classic shows there, like MGMT, Girl Talk and Phoenix. I think it's been an important venue. Des Moines let him put on a bigger rendition of what he had in Ames, with a continuation of a lot of great jam/roots rock shows. It's an important sized room for Des Moines.
Nate Logsdon, Mumford's singer and Maximum Ames Music Festival co-founder:
I'm sad to hear about this because I loved People's Court and saw some great shows there. When People's was in Ames it made a huge impact on the community and was the premier Ames rock club of its era. I hope to see a reincarnation of this classic institution someday!
Gwen Page, keybordist for Floodplane:
This news breaks my heart. Tom is a good friend and a passionate music lover. I've been performing with FloodPlane at People's in Ames since 1997 and at Peoples Court in Des Moines once it opened. Tom has always gone out of his way to support local music and also bring in a great variety of music for people who love jam, rock, bluegrass, soul, folk, hard rock...the list goes on & on. If it wasn't for Tom's support, I wouldn't have had the many opportunities to perform live and start my live performing experience as a musician. I had to pull out my 3 photo boards I created for the time we played our 'last show' at People's in Ames to reminisce. I'm very sad I'll never have the opportunity to play People's again, but what's really heartbreaking to me is to see something Tom has built for decades have to close. A very sad day indeed...there's such a rich history there. Thanks for all of the great music and the wonderful memories Tom.