The best way to describe Tua Lingua is "Tua Lingua." The music venue/art gallery/place of perpetual experimentation has been a singular concept since its creation in 2014. It's not every day that a venue dedicates its time to everything off the wall, including indie films, fringe performance art, spoken word, and, of course, music of all kinds. It's even less often that an independent arts space does well enough to move into a bigger and better North Charleston venue. The City Paper recently spoke with Tua Lingua director, co-owner, and "janitor in charge" Nathan Petro to discuss the plans for the new digs. Things naturally went to talks about nonconformist pottery.
City Paper: Why did Tua Lingua move?
Nathan Petro: We relocated out of absolute necessity driven by almost primal survival instinct. At the prior location, we achieved sustainability but had no room to grow. It was an "art house," and certainly had its charms, but there was no conceivable expansion.
CP: How do you think you'll be able to keep that highly experimental energy alive in the new space?
NP: You can think and strategize all day, but in the end, it can be wildly unpredictable in a great and almost addictive way. It's a constant evolution and adjustment process between ourselves and the community to create important and impactful events. I think that if you are doing this right, it will always be a little unstable, a little scary. But, that being said, we have managed to keep all of this going for almost five years already, which is generally unheard of for a self-funded artist space. And that, of course, indicates to us that we are doing something right.
CP: Given your proclivity for more left-field arts, you often have artists that you wouldn't usually see in Charleston. Why and how do you pick those bands/artists?
NP: Hosting these types of shows has always been part of the plan. Looking back, it's probably the seed that put the whole thing in motion. I'm a musician myself, and in the late '90s I was lucky enough to meet a great bunch of experimental musicians in the area. We were all young and full of beans — just had no options of ever playing out. Our best alternative was to infiltrate some open-mic night, but that usually resulted in angry bar owners and confused regulars. So, I've always identified that as a problem worth solving. I book these shows because I genuinely believe what [the musicians] are doing is very important. The defiance is very important. The commitment of these musicians is astoundingly beautiful. A lot of them are literally starving when they get here. With no illusions of winning a popularity contest, they are making major sacrifices to be heard.
- Michael Campina
- Tua Lingua was launched in 2014 by Nathan Petro
CP: Are you at all concerned with losing that rebellious mentality when moving into a bigger space and (potentially) bringing in a bigger audience?
NP: We're not setting out to be rebellious or salacious. We are not interested in "shock value" or booking extreme bands as a calculated marketing decision. We're just doing what feels right, important, and genuine. However, there's no real point in doing what so many other venues in the area do. We'd like to fill a void, and that void will inevitably evolve over time. Nothing is constant. We will pay attention and listen to the community so that we can always bring something different and needed to the table. As long as artistic expression is the pursuit, we will be eager to adapt.
CP: So there are no plans to book more popular (and I don't use this as a pejorative) "mainstream" local acts, unless they are going to really flip the script?
NP: Oh there's certainly plans for that as well. Being a nontraditional venue with no interest in adding a bar or selling drinks, there's no income attached to hosting music shows. It's always a labor of love. And the people who come out are really truly there for the performers. So if we are doing a show, it's because we believe in it.
CP: I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it sounds like you've actively thought about bringing some of the bigger local names. Is that a fair assumption, and if so what is the reason for putting a big name in such a fiercely DIY/nonconformist spot?
NP: Every show is its own thing, and has its own needs. The point is, the door is open. Always. And the venue itself is always flexible. What we've done previously will not strictly dictate what we do in the future. I'd also have to object to the idea that we are fiercely nonconformist. Many of the musicians we book can be described that way, but not everyone. We are always, and primarily, an artist space, and flexible. I'd hate for there to be a misconception that our pottery classes are "nonconformist pottery." Or that our resident artists are inherently counter-culture. Because that's absolutely not the case. If we end up with more recognized bands on the calendar, it's because they want to play here. That would be the reason. And I think that could be great for everyone.
Tua Lingua will break in the new venue with a night of grindcore, death metal, and sludge metal on Mon. Feb. 26. Pathogenesis, Organ Trail, and Tripping the Mechanism will hit the stage in as brutal a fashion as can be expected. All ages, $6 donation collected at the door, and no alcohol allowed.