Larry Cowles and Justin Kautzman have worked hard to bring a live music venue for all people to enjoy.
What they’ve built with The Loading Dock — 202 E. Wishkah St. in Aberdeen, has succeeded so far, to say the least. Kautzman, also a substitute teacher for Aberdeen and Hoquiam school districts, said he stopped booking bands in March because the venue is booked through September. The venue had its first show on Nov. 18, 2022.
The venue’s next show is Friday night and it features Kautzman’s “heavy blues” band — Black Shepherd. The doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at about 6:30 p.m. The night opens with the acoustic-rock duo of Patience and James. After that, Black Shepherd plays and then rock band Luck closes out the night.
But Cowles, who also plays in an ‘80s cover band This Way Out, pointed out it couldn’t have been done without Terry Emmert, the Oregon-based property owner who’s faced backlash over the number of properties he owns that are currently vacant throughout Grays Harbor County.
“I originally rented it for a place for my band to rehearse,” Cowles said Tuesday afternoon.
Cowles said Emmert let him rent the space for a price that enabled him to move in and start The Loading Dock.
“I think he’s just happy as can be with what’s going on,” Cowles said of the burgeoning live music scene The Loading Dock is helping create. “He’s trying to build downtown up and move out from there. So I know a lot of people are down on the guy because he’s a rich white guy buying a bunch of stuff, but he’s been good to me.”
Kautzman talked about how the venue’s popularity has grown since it opened.
“We’ve opened up and we do two shows,” Kautzman said. “Sometimes we have more. Like this month we’re gonna have four shows here. We book two bands and an opening act sometimes.”
This year, the shows have been $10 at the door and it’s cash only. The all-volunteer staff sells candy, chips and pop at the concession stand. Students — non-college — with Associated Student Body cards can save $2 per ticket.
Cowles said he’s not trying to make money off the shows. Kautzman explained where the cash goes.
“That money at the door, we take part of it to pay the rent and then we give the rest of it right back to the bands,” Kautzman said. “With two shows, we’re able to pay the rent so we can give a bunch to the bands that way. We’ve had people from Los Angeles come out and play and reach out to us because they were on tour.”
In addition to bands down the West Coast and one from Canada, The Loading Dock also hosts a “bunch of the local bands.”
“What’s really cool for me is a lot of these bands that we’ve played with at bars, they’re coming here and bringing their kids,” Kautzman said. “And their kids are getting to watch them play where they normally don’t get to. We had a high school band that came two weeks ago. They were ninth and 10th graders. It was their first show ever. They played original music. They came down here from Olympia and it was awesome.”
The fact The Loading Dock allows all ages seems to be the most important niche the venue creates.
“Our idea is that kind of 12- to 20-year-old crowd has got no place to safely go,” Cowles said. “It’s no alcohol in here. We encourage people, ‘Hey, get a pizza and bring a pizza if you want.’ Just no drinking and smoking in here, so somewhat family-friendly. There are some of the bands that get up here where there’s some swearing, but our unofficial motto is ‘Built for musicians by musicians.’”
The motto is because it’s kind of a spider web of musicians. While there are musicians Cowles and Kautzman know, those musicians then connect them with other musicians. And then those connections continue to spread.
Kautzman also complimented the work the local bars, such as Ashley’s Pub Haus, in Hoquiam, do to bring live music. They mentioned Ashley Eck by name as someone to thank. She owns Ashley’s Pub Haus.
“The bars around here do a great job of having music, but it’s only accessible to people who can go to the bar,” Kautzman said.
While it’s a smaller space, Cowles and Kautzman stand by the quality of the sound at The Loading Dock. That starts with Michael Johnson, who’s the drummer for Black Shepherd. Johnson runs the sound system. The amplifiers run through high-end speaker systems that allow for optimal sound quality.
“The only other place you’re going to get this sound quality is at Ashley’s Pub Haus,” Cowles said.
Kautzman and Cowles showed off on electric guitar and drums, respectively. The crunchy sound from the amp Kautzman used as he head-banged sounded clear as his riffs came through the speakers.
Kautzman is excited to bring his three-piece band, Black Shepherd, to The Loading Dock. In addition to Kautzman, who also sings, the band features Johnson on drums and recording and Steve Markham on bass and trumpet. He loved gettiing to see shows when he was a kid and he’s glad to be able to share that with today’s youth.
To provide an example of what music Black Shepherd plays, Cowles said they’re a “little lighter Black Sabbath.” Kautzman added to that comparison.
“Gray Sabbath,” Kautzman said about his band.
One of the Black Shepherd songs the two guys played was “Highway Love,” which immediately conjured up the familiar AC/DC sound. Kautzman then played the band’s “Angel of Death,” song. Kautzman said “Angel of Death” was inspired by ZZ Top’s song “La Grange,” although “you wouldn’t know if you listened to it.”
The important thing to note is Cowles’s review of Black Shepherd.
“The band is fun to watch,” Cowles said.
For further updates on future shows at The Loading Dock, text GHMUSIC to 855-642-7684, or on Facebook @TheLoadingDockGHC, or on Instagram @the-loading-dock. To share photos of shows at The Loading Dock, use #TheLDinGHC.
A few of the music events happening this weekend across Grays Harbor County, according to venues, Facebook and people in the know:
Friday, June 2
6 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Patience and James, Black Shepherd and Luck — The Loading Dock — 202 E. Wishkah St., in Aberdeen
Saturday, June 3
5 to 8 p.m. — Grit City Pickers — The Loge — 1416 S. Montesano St., in Westport
5 to 8 p.m. — Jacob Wikan — Ocean Pours Taproom — 759 Ocean Shores Blvd. NW, in Ocean Shores
8 p.m. to midnight — The Ape, Clear Nothing, and Hangman’s Park — Ashley’s Pub Haus — 710 J St., in Hoquiam
Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at email@example.com if you want to add a musical event to his calendar, which runs each Thursday in The Daily World.