Keeper of the Plans

Some amplification required: Donut Whole wants permanent sound system

The stage at the Donut Whole often plays host to all-ages shows – in many cases, three to four times per week.
The stage at the Donut Whole often plays host to all-ages shows – in many cases, three to four times per week. The Wichita Eagle

Does the Donut Whole need an amplified sound system for concerts?

A good number of musicians in Wichita think so, and in an effort to make that a reality, they’re hosting a group concert Saturday to raise money for one.

The installation of a permanent sound system at the Donut Whole is one step toward addressing what its owner Michael Carmody called a “dearth” of concert venues in town for people under 21.

Limiting for younger talent

The Donut Whole is one of few all-ages venues for music in Wichita, and oftentimes bands have to provide their own PA system when playing there, or play an acoustic set.

The lack of permanent amplified speakers at the Donut Whole is limiting, musicians say, as many fledgling bands cannot afford to rent or own the systems, which typically start around $500 to purchase.

“All-ages shows” refer to those that are open to people under 21, as the majority of local shows in Wichita are played at bars.

The effort is being spearheaded by This Ain’t Heaven Recording Concern, an independent music label in Wichita that often records for local indie acts.

Those recordings won’t make Dan Davis, its founder, rich; rather, the label is a way for local musicians to record music inexpensively – often on cassette tapes.

He has recorded 150 albums in the roughly 3 1/2 years the label has existed in his Riverside home.

His acts often perform at the Donut Whole, said his wife, JennElaine Davis, who is organizing the show Saturday.

“He just wants to promote more all-ages stuff, because it’s really important,” she said. “That’s how I met him, through all-ages shows he used to book a decade ago.”

In a September interview with the Eagle, members of The Travel Guide, an up-and-coming Wichita band, highlighted the need for more all-ages venues in Wichita.

“There is a real need for the all-ages scene to have a place to go, because there’s really no way for those kids to get out to shows,” said Kristyn Chapman, guitarist for the Travel Guide. “Those are going to be the most loyal showgoers.”

As it stands, Wichita has the Donut Whole and a collection of houses where people host concerts, typically in basements or living rooms. The annual ICT Fest, which Dan Davis started in 2004 and has since been taken up by Matthew Clagg, prides itself on being a music festival for the all-ages set.

Barring those exceptions, bars comprise the vast majority of music venues in Wichita. Some bars, such as the Brickyard, will occasionally host all-ages shows, but musicians say there is a need for a permanent all-ages venue.

“All-age shows are kind of dead unless you’re willing to have a house show, and for people that are 21 and up, that can be an uncomfortable situation,” JennElaine Davis said. “You don’t know whose house you’re going to, you don’t know if it’s safe, you don’t know if there’s going to be kids underage drinking or smoking, or if the cops are going to show up.”

All-age shows are kind of dead unless you’re willing to have a house show.

JennElaine Davis, organizer of the Donut Whole concert Saturday

More than donuts

Shows at the Donut Whole can get crowded, as its back room, otherwise known as the “Bantam Lounge,” with the iconic tiger on the wall, is somewhat cramped.

It’s not uncommon for 50 to 100 people to cram into the booths and chairs in the Donut Whole for well-promoted shows.

Carmody, owner of the Donut Whole and a musician himself, said providing a family-friendly concert environment is one of the cornerstones of his business.

“It’s not a doughnut shop or a coffee house, but a community center,” Carmody said. “That’s our primary goal – to nurture the arts community, creative community and independent entrepreneurs as much as we can. It followed naturally that we would have a stage and book shows.”

Carmody said the in-house sound system will not affect operations at the Donut Whole – musicians almost always opt to bring their own when they play the venue.

“(Dan Davis) feels it would be beneficial to everybody if we had some sound reinforcement built in, and I can’t say I disagree – I just don’t have a budget for it,” Carmody said.

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt

“Alive and Loud: PA Benefit for the Donut Whole”

When: 5 to 11 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12

Where: The Donut Whole, 1720 E. Douglas

What: Fundraiser to purchase an amplified sound system, or PA, for the Donut Whole, one of few all-ages music venues in Wichita

Admission: Free, but donations accepted

Details: Artists playing include Paul DeCeglie, Athena Kerr + Christopher Flores, SHVKXIR, Old Man Creaky Bones, Rudy Love Jr., Dreamverb, Mystery Blood, Endless Chasm, Living Ghost, Filius Sol, Marrice Anthony, Hello Morning. Dan Davis will be there selling merchandise and tapes from This Ain’t Heaven Recording Concern; the proceeds will go toward the purchase of the PA. To find a complete list of bands that play at the Donut Whole, visit www.thedonutwhole.com and click on the “Calendar” tab.

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