Treffpunkt: Saving Live Music on Cherokee Street

    What happens when one of your city’s cultural centers is about to lose its “beat?” If you’re Darian Wigfall of the Farfetched Music Collaborative, you go to church. Literally.

    “It’s called Treffpunkt,” he says, standing in the sanctuary of the 130 year-old former church. “It’s the German word for ‘gathering place.’”

    The place he’s speaking of has been a fixture at the corner of Jefferson and Potomac, a block off Cherokee Street, since 1888. It was the St. Matthews United Church of Christ for most of the years since. The congregation moved on and the church was vacant for a time. Then a south city developer bought it and did some renovation. It’s been cared for, but more often than not sat idle since 2014.

    Wigfall was approached last summer about bringing the venue back to life, but he really accelerated the process when he got word that the Cherokee Street district’s two largest live music venues were both about to close (2720 and Blank Space/RKDE). He’s now turning the old church into something very different. It opened in late December as a live music hall, bent on keeping the music scene moving around Cherokee Street.

    “I know that things are changing,” Wigfall said. “I know that a lot of developers are looking at Cherokee Street. So, understanding that, I knew that we had to move sooner rather than later.”

    The movement for Wigfall, a former events coordinator at KDHX radio, began with scrounging together the money he had to secure the lease.

    That’s when he took to Facebook, and found out he wasn’t the only one who saw a need for the old church.

    “A lot of people donated that I didn’t even know. They just knew that something was happening near Cherokee,” he said.  “I just was floored. I didn’t know what to expect. We raised quite a bit of money, upwards of $3,000, and it happened in less than 36 hours. And I just knew people wanted to see a space reactivated in this area for music and arts.”

    His partner in the project is Larry Morris, who was quick to jump on board when presented with the details of the project.

    “Cherokee is a wonderful street. South city is, I think, the cultural hub of St. Louis right now.  The energy’s here. All we’re doing is riding the wave and making sure that it makes sense,” Morris said.

    Wigfall says the new spot can be a lot of things to a lot of people.

    “I don’t’ want to just be music or just be visual art,” he says. “I want to do theater. Honestly, I’d like to do a video game tournament here. I want to do film showings and things like that. Just anything I can do to activate the space for people in the neighborhood.”

    Right now the basement of the building will be the focus for events, such as DJ parties and live concerts. The old sanctuary is beautiful, and full of potential, but it also has some significant challenges. Top among them:  the heat doesn’t work well.

    “Right now the basement is the space that has been mainly activated,” Wigfall said.  “[The basement] has heating and cooling. It has bathrooms and a sound system and it’s relatively easy to control the sound. In [the sanctuary] it’s a lot harder to control the sound.”  He claps has he makes that last statement, allowing the echo from the high ceiling to help him make his point.

    Although there are obstacles, Morris points to the things that can be done in what was the main space of the old church.

    “One of the big things we would love to do is have art galleries and big events up here. This space is already available to do yoga in the community, so that type of stuff is exciting to see people doing the things that they love coming to this space.”

    Their resolution for 2019 is to get the entire building up and running. It will be difficult, but Wigfall says obstacles are nothing new for him. Just getting these doors open offers proof that he can overcome them.

    “Every step I take, the Universe or God or whatever you believe in seems to give me affirmation to keep going.”

    Treffpunkt is located on the corner of Jefferson and Potomac in south St. Louis. You can find their website, here.

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