Entertainment

With Ace's Live and Joyland gone, here's how Independent Jones is keeping music alive in Bradenton

There would be a lot less music in Bradenton without Independent Jones.

The live music, entertainment and events company has staged acts all over town in the last three years.

Independent Jones has supplied the music for Main Street Live!, farmers markets in Lakewood Ranch, countless shows at Darwin Brewing Co. and even thrown a punk party in the ballroom of Manatee Performing Arts Center.

The chandeliers survived, and so did a space for local musicians in Bradenton.

"Our bread and butter has always been local indie artists," said Wade Hamilton, who makes up one half of the operation.

Morgan Bettes is the other half. The duo met through involvement with Realize Bradenton, the nonprofit that works toward "transforming places, engaging people and realizing possibilities" in the friendly city.

Independent Jones could check off those boxes, too.

Independent Jones founders Morgan Bettes and Wade Hamilton
Left to right: Morgan Bettes and Wade Hamilton created Independent Jones when they realized something was missing in Bradenton. Ryan Ballogg rballogg@bradenton.com

Through their concerts, Bettes and Hamilton have created a scene for local artists, connected local and regional acts and supported local musicians monetarily.

During their last booking season, they paid out more than $60,000 to local musicians, according to Bettes.

Kristopher James is one of them. James, a Bradenton-based singer-songwriter with a soulful voice and singular haircut, played at some of the first shows put on by Independent Jones.

According to James, Independent Jones is creating a long-needed outlet for Bradenton's rich musical community.

"Independent Jones is making it possible to not only support the Bradenton music community but to help stoke the entertainment fires that will help make Bradenton a force for the arts in the Tampa Bay area," James said.

The change cannot come fast enough, as James has seen plenty of musicians give up and move on over the years.

"To St. Pete, Tampa, Orlando or elsewhere to find a supportive community," James said.

Now, Independent Jones is more alone in that quest than ever.

Ace's Live shuttered in April, and Joyland Country Music Night Club followed in May.

"The loss of Ace's was tough," Hamilton said. "It was one of the last venues where you could throw a full show."

It was looking to be a summer without much music in Bradenton, but Hamilton and Bettes thought not so fast.

They decided to create a series of three pop-up shows using temporary spaces; one in June, one in July and one in August.

The first show is Friday at Connect Bradenton, the new mixed-use workspace in the former Bank of America building on Sixth Avenue West.

The space will be transformed into a cozy living room for an evening. James will open the night. Regional act Chasing Jonah will follow. Chasing Jonah is the moniker of Ashley Dudukovich, whose haunting vocals and cinematic compositions are drawing ears nationwide.

It is the kind of pairing that Bettes and Hamilton like to make, fostering connections between artists who otherwise would not meet.

For Bettes, it is all about giving local artists a fair chance.

"We just realized that something was missing in Bradenton," Bettes said. "Something that we felt was huge for community. Where do kids start to play? The music scene just needs opportunities to grow. That's why creating these opportunities is so important."

They are not doing it just for musicians though. Hamilton says they are trying to make sure that people who live in Bradenton get quality entertainment.

"We want to bring quality bands to local audiences and quality audiences to local bands," Hamilton said.

The eventual goal for Bettes and Hamilton is to open a venue of their own. They are willing to wait it out for the perfect spot, though.

"That's been our endgame since day one," Hamilton said. "We want to do it right and we want to do it once."

In the meantime, wherever they go, the music will follow.

Pop-up show details: 7 p.m. June 15. Connect Bradenton, 1201 Sixth Ave. W. #100, Bradenton. $15. Tickets on sale through Eventbrite.

For updates on the next installments of the summer pop-up series, and other shows, follow Independent Jones at facebook.com/independentjones.

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