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Come 2 Go's Split Personality

The Evolution of a Rock and Roll Club

By Chris Colcord

Fort Wayne Reader

2011-06-06


When Come 2 Go Ministries began to consider the feasibility of turning their state-of-the-art stage into a viable, full-time, Fort Wayne concert venue, they asked consultant Mark Lahey for specific recommendations. "As a promoter, as a booking agent, as a general manager, here's what I'd want: You gotta neutralize the place," Lahey said. "It can't look, feel, smell, taste or assume any resemblance to a church whatsoever. Because of every 100 people that walk out of there, 90 will say 'That was a blast' while the other 10 will say, 'It's still a church'."

Lahey's suggestion underscored the identity problems that Come 2 Go has experienced since its inception as a music ministry-slash-concert hall-slash-worship center in 2003. Many people think of C2G as purely a church-sponsored music hall, featuring Christian rock or gospel performers, while others believe it's more of a hippie/folk venue that occasionally brings in national artists. Those familiar with the space from the "Come 2 Go Live" television programs may think that the concert hall is predominantly used by local artists eager to get some well-timed publicity for their fledgling bands. Confusing matters further is the fact that on Sundays Come 2 Go becomes a church, hosting weekly services and devotionals for members of its congregation.

So what is it? Well, it depends on the day and the event: "If nobody gets paid, if all the money goes to the church, if it's there to glorify God it's a ministry event," explains Lahey, who in April was hired full-time to recalibrate Come 2 Go's musical direction. "But if we sell tickets, charge admission, pay the artists--it's a concert. We have to draw a clear line to separate the two entities."

Which means that on Sunday, Come 2 Go exists as a sanctified worship center, while on concert nights it's a secular business that sells beer and food and places no restrictions on the content of the music of the performers.

The bi-polar nature of the Come 2 Go space is necessary, Lahey believes, to ensure the long-term stability of both the music hall and the ministry. Initially started as a music ministry by Pastor Mark Minnick, Come 2 Go gradually evolved into a progressive-minded church that offered outreach programs to members of its inner-city congregation. In an increasingly-challenged economic climate, however, the church soon realized that the key to its survival might be in taking advantage of its greatest asset: the Sweetwater Sound donated, acoustically-impeccable soundstage. Making the Come 2 Go space a viable, commercial venue could eventually help sustain the ministry's commitment to providing free or low-cost programs for the community. It's clearly a case where the crass, business-minded "left hand" helps to support the loftier, altruistic goals of the church's "right hand."
Lahey believes that the high quality of the music hall could also provide concert-goers with a venue unique to the Fort Wayne area. "The place is just really cool," says Lahey. "Outside of the Embassy or Piere's, it's got a sound system that's better than anything in town."

Lahey sees Come 2 Go as an alternative to the other stages in town, and is marketing the shows to emphasize the singular advantages of the space. Come 2 Go will remain an all-ages, family-friendly hall with early starting times (usually 8pm) and a stage that doesn't force the artists to compete with an easily-distracted bar crowd. And Lahey intends to bring in eclectic acts that encompass a variety of musical genres. Come 2 Go's first big weekend of the summer, June 10-11, will feature an old-school, R&B funk act (the Dynamites, with the Todd Harold Band, June 10th), and a white-hot trio of garage/punk performers (River City Tan Lines, White Mystery, the Elky Summers, June 11th.) Lahey hopes to include jazz artists, country singers, retro acts, and possibly stand-up comedians for future events.

Though he readily admits that Come 2 Go's new direction is in its embryonic stage, Lahey sees great potential for the venture. "Almost every performer who's played here has told us they'd come back," Lahey says. "It's a good gig in a great space." Lahey has seen the positive word-of-mouth testimonials from artists translate directly into increased interest in the Come 2 Go space. "Every national artists usually has an agency and a management team, and if they have a good experience with us, they'll invariably tell other artists about it. We've had a number of agencies seek us out about the availability of future shows."

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