Running a guitar company sounds like a whole lotta fun, doesn’t it? I mean, you get to be around guitars all day! What could be cooler than that?!
Granted, there are a number of things that go into keeping your guitar company going that have next to nothing to do with guitars themselves. Somebody’s got to make sure inventory is in stock, that dealers are ordering — and getting — guitars regularly, and that the bills are getting paid. Like any company, there are things that need to be done that aren’t fun and aren’t exactly why you got into business.
But one of the things they get to do at Reverend Guitars — hell, one of the things they LOVE to do at Reverend — is check out the latest and greatest bands.
There isn’t one person at Reverend who doesn’t go out to hear live music on a regular basis. And one of the best things about working for a guitar company is being able to establish a working relationship with bands you admire. Let’s face it, without touring bands playing your instruments out where people can hear and see them, a guitar company ain’t gonna last long.
The venue that the good folks at Reverend often frequent, in their home environ of Detroit Rock City, is a club called Small’s.
Located on the corner of Conant and Caniff in the Detroit borough of Hamtramck, this rock bar is revered by musicians and fans alike as the perfect place to see a band. On nearly any night of the week, Small’s welcomes rock bands of just about every level, from local acts just getting started, to Detroit regulars like the Paybacks and the Muggs, up-and-comers like The Hounds Below, and to those who’ve been around the block a few times such as the Supersuckers and Eagles of Death Metal.
You’ve got your basic neighborhood bar in front, boasting a selection of premium liquors and 53 beers served up from an Art Deco-era mahogany bar, and armed with a well-loaded jukebox that spins everything from Johnny Cash to the Stooges. When you’re ready to rock, you make your way through a small connecting room whose back wall is plastered with band stickers, to the stage room, a medium-sized room with an actual raised stage, pro PA system (voted “Best Sound & Lights” by readers of Detroit’s Metro Times) and a whole lot of sweaty rock fans.
“I think it’s the coolest bar in Hamtramck,” says Melody Malosh, who, as it happens, is co-owner of the place. Melody came on board five years ago, along with her husband, Dave, to run the place with fellow co-owners Mike and Natalie Mouyians. The building was originally opened in 1923 as a bank (There’s even a vault, which they use to store booze), years later became a bar, and in the early 2000s the stage room was built on the former dirt lot out back making Small's a contender in the Detroit live music scene.
Melody, a musician herself (see the Gore Gore Girls or Sirens), is good pals with the folks at Reverend and regularly works with the company, which has sponsored many of the events and bands that hit the club. She likes “seeing bands that I love, hanging out with them, and seeing new bands.” Says local musician and Reverend artist Jay Navarro (Break Anchor, Suicide Machines), “This place is like a party. It’s like a punk rock Cheers.” In fact, the crowd changes from night to night depending on the bill and the day of the week. Live rock music is alive and well in Detroit confirms Malosh, “People come to see the bands.”
And Reverend comes there to support and meet with their artists, such as ska legends The Toasters, metal mutants Valient Thorr, stoner rock progenitors Fu Manchu, guitar icon Pete Anderson and many more. Reverend founder Joe Naylor favors Small's, "If one of our artists is coming to Small's, it's a no-brainer, we're there. Sometimes we just hang out with the band, sometimes it's serious business. Either way, the Small's crew is very accommodating; they're just cool people. Besides, it's a great venue — the worst seat in the house is like 30 feet from a raised stage!"
Ken Haas, Reverend’s general manager, also frequents the place — and not just as part of the crowd. His band, Polka Floyd (You guessed it, polka versions of Pink Floyd songs) has played the venerable venue many times. "We love playing there, it's always a good time. And it's a great way to try out new gear, a lot of Reverend prototypes have been field tested at Small's. That's really the ultimate test – put it on the stage."
Next time you get through Detroit, either as a musician or as a fan, stop by Small’s, grab a beer, and say hi to Melody. She’ll greet you with a big smile and probably tell you “you gotta go check out the band that’s playing right now.” And you really should.
Marsh Gooch is a graphic designer and writer from Seattle who has been playing guitar and bass "for an awfully long time." Currently the bassist in King County Queens, he's held marketing positions with ESP Guitars, Ampeg, Line 6 and Reverend Guitars. He rocks to all kinds of music, especially classic and punk rock, and actually prefers the Damned over the Beatles. At least half the time. He can be reached via his web site, marshallgooch.com.