Band and business: Relationship creates culture through music

David Brashier

Lucas Triba performing with his band Speedball. The band created an inviting atmosphere for other local bands at Noble Kava after meeting during an open mic night. (Kait Rous)

A local guitarist attended an open mic night at the kratom bar Noble Kava in February 2018, seeking talent to form a band. It was there that he met two other musicians, and the trio formed the funk-rock/alternative group Speedball.

This chance encounter between Lucas Triba, Jake Hodges and Brendan Grove at the kratom bar’s open mic night was not merely the collaboration of three musicians forming a band; it was the beginning of a relationship between a band and a venue, and the foundation of a new culture in the Boone music scene. 

 “Looking back, the fact that we could all meet at one spot at the kava bar is beyond me,” said Triba, rhythm guitarist for Speedball. “We were lucky to have a venue, in the beginning, we could play one night a week at.”

 Consistent weekly performances helped Speedball attain local fame quickly. Realizing their influence early on, the goal became less about producing music and more about fostering community amongst other artists like themselves.

“We owe it to the Boone music scene and the musicians who really helped us,” said Grove, bassist for Speedball. “Having that community and being able to network and talk to other musicians in the scene is really important for local artists.” 

Though Speedball was privileged to headline a plethora of iconic Boone stages in their first year, their desire to support the music community took them back to where it all started: Noble Kava open mic nights.

“I credit Noble Kava for a lot of the great things in my life,” said Hodges, lead guitarist for Speedball. “As a venue, they’ve been nothing but supportive of us. It’s an accepting environment for anyone to come out and play, whether it’s comedy, poetry, music, anything.”

Open mic nights at the bar gave creators a platform to showcase their talent who otherwise wouldn’t get a chance, Hodges said. Speedball wanted open mic nights at Noble Kava to not simply be an event, but a culture like the one that made their group a reality. 

“Speedball put us on the map with open mic night,” said Jackson Grotophorst, the general manager at Noble Kava. “They really promoted the outsourcing of other bands and the connection of others that maybe hadn’t even heard of us. They took it to a whole ‘nother level.” 

Grotophorst never had to encourage this sense of community around open mic night on his own, he said. It began with Speedball encouraging creators to share their art on stage. If a fledgling lyricist had a song but no music, Speedball would provide instrumentals themselves. 

“It was something that people naturally gravitated toward in that space,” said Grotophorst. “Speedball helped orchestrate that.” 

  Thanks to Speedball, open mic night went from roughly 60 attendees each week to the bar having to turn patrons away at the occupancy of 110, Grotophorst said. He no longer has to advertise the event because the community returns week after week.

Jake Hodges playing the guitar with Speedball. Local business, Noble Kava, and Speedball’s relationship was the foundation of a new culture in the Boone music scene. (Kait Rous)

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, open mic night has inevitably taken a recess for the past seven months, and no one is certain about when it will get to take place in person again. In Grotophorst’s six years of managing at Noble Kava, this is the first time he has gone without open mic night every Thursday. 

 “It’s probably one of the saddest things I’ve had to let go of with this place,” said Grotophorst. “We still have the community, but it feels like an empty shell of what it was.”

For members of Speedball, the loss is even more bitter. 

  “I didn’t realize how not getting to play shows would negatively affect me,” said Triba. “I just have these moments of sadness that I can’t explain. When I’m performing and around people, I’m more comfortable there than I am sitting down on my couch. Being on stage is where I’m supposed to be.”

Having not performed any shows since March, the band has focused on their craft and recorded singles for the majority of the year. 

For Speedball and Noble Kava staff and patrons, the pandemic has marked the loss of a cornerstone of their creative lives and health. 

While open mic night may be gone, for now, its absence has given them the space to appreciate just how much the community has grown since 2018 and how Speedball revolutionized the culture surrounding the bar as a venue. 

  “People need to come out to open mic at the kava bar when it’s back,” Triba said. “Just for people to experience good art, perform themselves, and judge people’s work as their own.”

  Noble Kava plans to deliver the open mic night experience virtually in the coming weeks. Creators will be able to submit video clips of their performances to Noble Kava’s website which they will then assemble into a compilation. Grotophorst said patrons and creators alike can expect an announcement in late October or early November.