Artist’s renderings of the completed Little Street Music Hall, by Cioffi Architect.

The Coachella Valley is in an era of revitalization and change regarding entertainment venues. The Acrisure Arena is bringing sports and music megastars to Palm Desert, and new restaurant venues are attracting local and touring bands in the low and high desert.

But there’s still a relative dearth of venues for up-and-coming local musicians—especially venues that truly support artists and their creativity.

Enter Avenida Music. The beloved band of brothers (Josiah Gonzalez, Samuel Gonzalez and Vince Gonzalez), plus drummer Sean Poe, was voted Best Local Band by our readers during our Best of Coachella Valley 2018-2019 poll. After their plans for a live music venue in 2019 were upended by the pandemic, Avenida is returning with the Little Street Music Hall, at 82707 Miles Ave., in downtown Indio.

The space will feature live music and events, and offer rehearsal space, while being open during the day selling coffee, tea and beer as Encore Coffee. During a recent interview with Josiah Gonzalez, Avenida’s keyboard player, he explained why a space like this has yet to exist.

“It takes an insane amount of patience,” Gonzalez said. “You have to dig through an incredible amount of bureaucracy. There’s a ton of paperwork, and I think the biggest thing is there’s a disconnect between what musicians want to do and experience, and what the city municipality and infrastructure are set up to help you build. The city of Indio is very forward-thinking. This is something that they know that they want, and we keep hitting roadblocks, and they help us get over those roadblocks. … As artists, you’ve got these giant plans: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do all this?’ And then you hit the red tape. It’s not hard; it’s just like a marathon: You can go really slow and get it done, but it’s still, like, 30 miles.”

Gonzalez said he and his team have had to learn—and be patient at the same time.

“We’re musicians. We don’t have the developer money that some of these other businesses do, so you just have to do it yourself,” he said. “You have to learn it yourself. It’s a whole different skill set that we, as musicians, didn’t have. We’re getting there, but we still don’t have it. Artists are generally not geared for this kind of work, so if you’re not willing to learn it, and if you’re not willing to pay somebody for it, then it’s not going to get done. … When people see old buildings, they think, ‘That’s badass; you could throw a cool show there. It’s old; it’s dilapidated; slap some paint on it, and it’ll be sick.’ Then you get in there, and you realize, ‘Oh, in order to put 150 bodies into this building, I have to deal with asbestos, and building codes, and a building that’s falling apart, and toilets that don’t work.’ … We kind of lucked out with the partnership that we have with the city. They wanted this to happen, and they put a lot of effort and time into this.”

“We built this business so that it could survive without making $1 off of music, ticket sales, beer sales or coffee. This business could survive just from our live gigging.” Avenida Music’s Josiah Gonzalez

Avenida’s Little Street Studio was in operation for a few short months before the pandemic, offering rehearsal space and featuring live bands. This experience helped the group learn some valuable lessons they’re taking into this new project.

“Initially, that space was just for rehearsal and for storage,” Gonzalez said. “We had a very different vision, and when we had people ask us, ‘Hey, can we use this for a show?’ we didn’t realize it was something that people even wanted. We said, ‘Bring some of your friends out,’ and then the giant crowd piled out of the door, and we’re like, ‘Oh, people need this.’ First was the realization that there was actually a need, and the second piece was that we were woefully underprepared to meet that need.”

Gonzalez walked me through the Little Street Music Hall and showed me areas that caused them a lot of trouble, such as the bathrooms and the sprinkler system.

“Musicians, typically the DIY crowd, don’t run in circles where someone’s got a friend who’s going to loan me $150,000,” Gonzalez said. “If you don’t have those people who can dump tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into your project just because they know you and like you, then you have to go to typical institutions like banks or lending houses, and a lot of them don’t understand music, or musicians as a whole. We don’t have good models for monetizing our art.”

Thankfully, Avenida Music is familiar with both captivating an audience and running a business. The members have grown from days of weekend gigs and working for free to offering various music-related services, and now every member of the group works full-time for Avenida’s LLC.

“We built this business so that it could survive without making $1 off of music, ticket sales, beer sales or coffee,” Gonzalez said. “This business could survive just from our live gigging. We have four different avenues that we built out so far: live-music gigging, booking, music education and music-affiliate stuff like consulting and AV jobs. The food and bev will be that fifth revenue stream, and it’s going to eventually be the biggest if it goes right, but even if everything sank, the goal was that we can make $0, or just break even, and this could still be a phenomenal place that’s just a passion project, and we could still float, we could pay employees and cover all of our bills.”

Gonzalez said he and his bandmates/partners will always be musicians first, and businessmen second.

“Part of our philosophy is that we do not identify as businessmen, per se. Our primary identification always needs to be as a musician,” Gonzalez said. “No matter how big we get, we always have to resonate with the struggle of the local musician. The thought process behind that is: If musicians feel like this is the place where they want to play, because it’s for them, that’s the place where the people who follow them are going to want to see them. (Musicians) are going to say, ‘If there’s one place that you have to come and see me, it’s here, and please support them outside of this so that I can keep playing here.’ We’re going mandate, no matter how many coffee shops and music venues and other branches, we always have to play at least one gig a month back in the trenches. … We want to stay connected to the community. It’s all about the community, and a big part of that is to be part of the music community.

Gonzalez said they want to help “develop a really viable economic ecosystem for musicians in the Coachella Valley to be able to take their passion for their art, and turn that into something that they can actually live off of,” so the valley can be a place capable of growing artists to their full potential.

“You see a lot of people in the Coachella Valley leaving, and I want to reverse the trend of people saying, ‘I have to go to San Diego or L.A. in order to play bigger venues,’” Gonzalez said. “We want people from other areas to say, ‘I have to go to that space in Indio, because it is the best, most musician-friendly, most crowd-pumping location for my original music.’ We want to drag people to this scene, and that lifts the whole scene, that lifts the quality of musicians, and that lifts the quality of audiences. It makes every other venue step up their game.”

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...

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