Two weeks ago, Seann McKeel announced she would be dropping her role as booker for the increasingly amorphous venue Acme. Her tenure lasted only a year and a half—during which time McKeel also booked and promoted shows at the Wonder Ballroom—but she developed the former diner into one of Portland's ground zeros for local indie music. Under McKeel's reign, the space hosted everything from the Decemberists to the premiere of Portland's Burn to Shine (a music-based DVD which she co-curated) to probably even the band practicing in your neighbor's basement. Last week, Riff City asked McKeel to reflect on her time at Acme and discuss the space's future and what's next for her.
Riff City: Why are you leaving?
Seann McKeel: We're mutually breaking up: They're going to a more DJ/bar format, and I'm moving my attention to all-ages shows and other paths of the Jedi.
Does that mean you'll be expanding your role at the Wonder Ballroom?
Yes! I've got some kid shows in the works, as well as my usual type of booking. Wonder has been awaiting a new PA, and we're all very excited about it.
Do you feel you were accomplishing your booking ideal at Acme?
Yes and no. When I began booking Acme, my immediate goal was to get a bigger stage, a bigger PA, love from bands and, through this, help give Acme a good name. This was accomplished. However, now the stage is smaller than it was when I started. The PA is also smaller, and the bands who fell in love with the space aren't really going to be playing there anymore anytime soon....
Do you have any regrets about your time there?
I regret that I couldn't be there as much as I wanted to be. For the past year, my relationships with bands have been so e-based that I've felt a little out of touch. It was an awesome formula to test—book a space that didn't take a door cut, thus didn't really have a settlement at the end of the night; had a DIY PA and, therefore, usually didn't require a sound tech; a space without an office so that I could book from home throughout my pregnancy; a space that paid me a little to book, but didn't take so much time that I couldn't work my day job booking for Wonder Ballroom. Unfortunately, it meant I missed out on some magic, because I set it up so that I really didn't have to physically be there.
Can you tell me more about where Acme's going next?
Last summer Acme thought its butt might look real good in restaurant pants, but eventually dance fit better; now they're trying on good old bar britches with a kicky top! Ultimately, Acme would like to become a place anyone can stop in and have a drink and enjoy DJs, for the most part...without having to pay a cover, or having musicians playing too soft or too loud. A bar bar.
To read Michael Byrne's uncut Q&A with McKeel, visit LocalCut.com. Also see Q&A with Berbati's most recent ex-booker, Conrad Loebl, page 49.