This article is originally from 34th Street Magazine.
Part recording studio, part rehearsal room and part private event space, The Boom Room is a hybrid approach to building a local music community. Founded by drummer and producer Gary Dann, The Boom Room opened in September of last year. In the fall of 2011, it was a bare, stripped structure in Fishtown with concrete floors and little in the way of furniture or polish. What it has become, though, is a place where musicians, artists and producers can come together to create. When asked what his main goal was in starting The Boom Room, Dann responds without hesitation: “Community.”
Gary Dann grew up in Bucks County. As a teenager with a newly–acquired license, he used to drive into Philadelphia to catch concerts and absorb new music. In 2002, he and a group of friends started putting on shows at the Aqua Lounge at 4th and Girard. The Fishtown–Northern Liberties area didn’t have the cultural cache then that it has now (Forbes Magazine recently named NoLibs one of America’s top “Hipster Neighborhoods”). Says Dann, “It was before this neighborhood blew up, so to speak, and got gentrified. It was when people were like, ‘Fishtown? Ew, gross.’”
Around the same time, Dann decided that he wanted to begin working toward his dream of opening and operating his own Philly–based recording studio. He left a good job in order to pursue producing and photography, honing the skills that he’d need to run a studio. The Boom Room has only been open for a year, but it’s been in the works for a decade.
On Sundays, The Boom Room hosts a program called “Music Church,” a weekly gathering that is both a songwriting workshop and a jam session. It was during Music Church that Jaguar Wright, a Philly–born singer who has toured internationally and performed with The Roots and Jay–Z, joined other musicians to form a new band, The W.E. Dann calls this collaboration “the biggest part” of everything that’s come out of The Boom Room’s efforts as an incubator for creative partnerships and innovation. Another notable example is The Boom Room’s large mural, painted by artist Joshua Mays and unveiled in July, which can be seen from Frankford Avenue.
At heart, Gary Dann’s vision and its realization boil down to his love for his neighbors, his neighborhood and his city: “Philly’s harsh. Philly’s tough. Philly’s kind of filthy. But I love this city. I see the beauty in it, and that stuff doesn’t bother me… And I hope that this place contributes to the beauty and brings out the best in the city.”