Steve’s Guitars a labor of love |

Steve’s Guitars a labor of love

Photo by Michael R. Brands Humorist Barry Smith is one of the various acts Steve's Guitars hosts in its quaint venue in Carbondale. Smith will perform his one-man show, "The Barry Smith Comedy Project Experiment Thing," with singer-songwriter Jason Gordon opening, Saturday at Steve's. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 8:30 p.m.

CARBONDALE – Steve’s Guitars, one of the downvalley’s most popular music venues, is looking for a little help from its friends.Proprietor Steve Standiford of Carbondale has been offering live music regularly for more than a decade in the Dinkle Building on Main Street.But in a plea he issued through his weekly e-mail message about upcoming acts, Standiford said he needs some assistance.”This special appeal for help is intended as a ‘red flag’ to make you aware of our fragile existence,” Standiford wrote in the e-mail Sunday. “Rent and expenses keep going up, and we face increasing competition from ‘subsidized’ venues every year.”By subsidized, he said, he means bars that serve liquor or food; community concert series funded by municipal budgets; nightclubs run by backers with “deep pockets,” and others that “have some form of subsidy or another agenda than just ‘the music.'”

Standiford, along with his wife, Mary Margaret O’Gara, has been keeping the music going for years, in large part as a kind of labor of love with little or no monetary return.The live music started upstairs, but for about eight or nine years musicians have played at Steve’s Guitars on Fourth Street, in a tiny room that holds 60 or 80 people.He has made no secret over the years that the money he collects from a donations jar at the door for most shows and the ticket proceeds from bigger-name acts are not quite paying the bills.”After many years, we can no longer continue to afford subsidizing its operation alone,” the e-mail said. “This is the time when we wish for a big trust fund, but wishing won’t make it so. It will take ‘a village’ to keep this special venue alive.”Standiford’s plea asks for donations (the e-mail includes a list of “sponsorship” levels) or help in a variety of other ways.

He said if people can’t donate money, they could help by cooking a dinner for one of the musical acts, providing a place for traveling acts to sleep, helping design or hang posters, forwarding Steve’s Guitars e-mails to friends, or helping book an act.”Carbondale has become a real hot spot for live music, and we have loved being a part of this renaissance,” the e-mail said.”We think that Steve’s Guitars is the best place to see live music in the valley and not just because we own it. Presenting hundreds of musical shows has been an incredible musical adventure, and we would be very sad to end our long, enjoyable run.”Reached at his home south of Carbondale, Standiford said he’s not happy with having to ask for help.”It feels uncomfortable asking people for money,” he said.But he added that he already has received pledges for money and other kinds of assistance, including posters for shows and meals and rooms for visiting musicians.

Standiford worked for years for nonprofit corporations – he left the Roaring Fork Energy Center a little more than three years ago – and he said he is not interested in turning Steve’s Guitars into a nonprofit.”It would be nice to raise $5,000 or $10,000,” an amount he said is roughly what Steve’s Guitars nets at the door during a year of shows, he said.Although reluctant to discuss fiscal details, he said he started out renting the space for $180 a month back when it was named Mt. Sopris Music.”Our overhead is about 10 times that now,” he said, adding that “my personal savings have just slowly kind of dropped.”Standiford is locally famous for not wanting to part with the vintage guitars hanging in the store, but recently he has started selling them to make ends meet.”It’s really not a burden,” he said of the venue. “It’s a joy to do … (but) it’s not sustainable.”

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