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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
On the staff at the new Hammerhead’s Music Hall on Hanna Street are, from left, Jon Herrera, promotions/bar manager; Amanda Loshe, talent buyer/hospitality manager; and Randy Shaver, venue manager.

Club wants unique role in music scene

New music venues are multiplying in Fort Wayne like proverbs about proverbial rabbits.

Fast on the heels of the launch of the Yellow Bird on East State Boulevard comes news that some folks are preparing to reopen Sunset Hall on Hanna Street with a re-energized rationale and a reimagined vision.

Sunset Hall will be reintroduced on Saturday night as Hammerhead’s Music Hall, a venue dedicated to providing live music at night and wedding and reception services during the day.

The inaugural musical act will be the alt-metal band Soil.

A number of traits will make Hammerhead’s stand out from the pack, says new manager Randy Shaver.

Firstly, it will be an all-ages venue. Secondly, Hammerhead’s will never specialize, either explicitly or implicitly, in a particular musical genre.

“There are two things I want people to know,” he says. “They can drop off their child here knowing that the child will be safe. And when I say all genres, I mean all genres.”

Strict security will be enforced by a bonded security team, Shaver says.

This isn’t to suggest that the Sunset Hall was ever a magnet for trouble in the past, says promotions guy and bar manager Jon Herrera.

“There are just people who assume anything on the south side is a problem,” he says.

“Where we are located is at the tip of where things are often awry,” Herrera says. “That has attached itself to the venue, and we want to dispel that.”

Hammerhead’s sits just north of where Hanna meets Lafayette Street.

Shaver has made a number of improvements to the venue, including the installation of a 20,000-watt sound system and upgraded kitchen equipment.

The dressing rooms have been totally redone, a meet-and-greet room has been added, and the main auditorium has been spruced up.

Eventually, Shaver says, Hammerhead’s will have a full-scale video production room and a pervasiveness of screens so that patrons can watch the show wherever they are in the venue.

Digital video of performances by local bands will be made available to those bands free of charge, he says.

Shaver, who says he has worked with northeast Indiana bands in a number of capacities over the years, wants Hammerhead’s to be supportive of local music in a way that few area venues are these days.

“They really don’t have the opportunities they deserve,” Shaver says.

National acts will always be paired onstage with local acts, says talent buyer Amanda Losche.

Venues such as the Brass Rail and C2G Music Hall have had success over the last few years convincing artists on tour in the Midwest to take a chance on Fort Wayne.

Shaver wants to emulate this strategy and take it a step further.

Like the cinematic Santa Claus who redirected Macy’s customers to Gimbel’s, Shaver intends to recommend other venues to touring acts on those occasions when Hammerhead’s is booked up.

Shaver wants to get the word out about Fort Wayne’s unsung disposition as a music mecca “so that every band knows it can stop here and play somewhere.”

“Even if we can’t get them in here,” he says, “we can get them in somewhere.”

“I think we can all work together to create a place where all bands want to come,” Shaver says. “We can make Fort Wayne a major destination.”

Shaver will host a free open house at Hammerhead’s for members of the media, local business leaders and anyone else who cares to drop by. It will start at 11 a.m. July 7 and end at 3 a.m. July 8, Losche says.

Bands of every stripe and persuasion will perform throughout the 16-hour period, she says.

When people ask him why he got involved with Hammerhead’s, Shaver says he responds with a promise whispered to Kevin Costner’s character in the movie “Field of Dreams” – “If you build it, they will come.”

“That’s what I believe,” he says. “We’re building something here that has been talked about and dreamed about and everybody has mentioned doing.”

Steve Penhollow is an arts and entertainment writer for The Journal Gazette. His column appears Sundays. He appears Fridays on WPTA-TV, Channel 21, WISE-TV, Channel 33, and WBYR, 98.9 FM to talk about area happenings. Email him at A Facebook page for “Rants & Raves” can be accessed at