If you hit Downtown Salt Lake City near dusk most nights lately, there’s been a bustle that had been long absent from the city center. On 60 E. Exchange Place, The Shred Shed, an all-ages music venue and art gallery, has ignited flurries of color and culture where local and touring underground bands of all genres have sounded off in a space filled with street murals, graffiti and framed visual art. The Shred Shed has become an epicenter for the local DIY music community, and come Thursday, Oct. 17, co-owner Jesse Cassar will begin to celebrate the first anniversary of what has already become a site of Salt Lake countercultural lore. The crux of the venue’s milestone, however, transcends any notion that it’s “just” a venue: It’s a beacon for the Salt Lake City community. “That’s really my favorite part—being a part of something that’s a lot more powerful than I could ever be as a person,” says Jesse. “That’s the whole point of The Shred Shed. If you want to be a musician, you could have the opportunity to. It’s just this little, grassroots vehicle for people pursuing their dreams.”
Jesse achieved his dream on Oct. 19 of 2012. Since then, The Shred Shed has enjoyed killer shows from underground giants like local ’80s hardcore band Insight, melodic rockers Night Verses and rapper Blueprint of Rhymesayers, while continually providing an outlet for local outfits like hip hop artist Atheist, the avant-hardcore Foster Body and the bourgeoning Heartless Breakers. It is second nature for Jesse to dedicate himself to bands and their well-being, and has been since he booked his first show for LOOM, Red Caps and DJ Ryan Moody at Artopia in September 2008. Jesse has since honed his showcasing skills, as he studied sound engineering at Santa Cruz Community College in 2008 and learned the ropes of booking and promoting shows at Santa Cruz’s Blue Lagoon. When LOOM visited Santa Cruz, bandmates Kim Pack and Mike Cundick asked him to roadie for them, and he eventually became their manager. Overseeing LOOM, Jesse rounded out his passion for helping bands.
Jesse moved back to Utah in 2009, and he and Cundick decided that they wanted to live in a perfect band environment. The first DIY Shred Shed began when the two found an affordable home where LOOM (recently coming out of hiatus) could practice and bands could play with the essential amenities: office, living space and a “shop” area. In February of 2010, he and Cundick moved in. More and more bands from around the country called in favors to play the DIY Shred Shed when official venues were unavailable in SLC, and more and more shows transpired there until four shows in one week elicited a police visit. At that point, the cops knew the place was an unauthorized venue and shut it down in September 2011. Jesse says, “It was really hard—it was one of the hardest things I had ever gone through.” It took just three months of frustration before Jesse became motivated again to establish a legitimate all-ages venue. “I truly believed that it was my calling,” he says. “I believed that it was an opportunity for me to do some real good, to make a positive change in Salt Lake City.”
Jesse began going into the City-County building at least once a week in 2012 to gather information on how to open a venue. Several departments gave him the runaround, which led him to Fire Marshal Dennis Barker, the very person who’d shut him down with the police. Jesse stated his case and won over Barker, who coached him on how to get a legitimate Shred Shed running. Jesse learned the ropes around the departments in the building, but after going in habitually, Jesse’s morale had dampened—until his friend, Michael King, stepped in to help. King not only offered advice and “inspirational speeches,” but threw his hat in the ring to become a silent business partner with Jesse, helping raise money and search for a space. “I always thought that it would be amazing to have The Shred Shed in the location where Artopia was. It’s an amazing location—it’s a good space—and there’s a lot of good energy there,” he says. Ironically, Jesse found that the empty space was zoned exactly for what he needed.