My first ever-romantic breakup happened on the steps of a chapel. Techno Chapel. It was a chilly Saturday evening, and my soon-to-be-ex beau and I were sitting on the steps out front, slightly shivering against the cold, slightly shivering against the iciness of a relationship that had frozen over. I’m pretty sure that I was crying – a pitiful act, somehow made nobler by the soft, grooving funk oozing from a crack under the door, an electronic backdrop to my rupturing heartbreak.
I think back to that moment often – not because of the love affair that ended, but because of the relationship that began.A year later, I moved in. Well, next door. My house shares a backyard with Techno Chapel, the house-turned-music-venue run by its tenants, Andy Koeger, and Cedric Placide, along with friends Apple Xenos, Dylan Levitt, Jon Klepfer and Lucas Gregg. They’re seniors now, but Techno Chapel was originally conceived in July 2014, the black-sheep brainchild of summertime boredom, and creativity.
Aided by the powers of Facebook and its social media siblings, it soon became a staple in the Savannah electronic music scene and a part of the larger DIY (do-it-yourself) house venue community.
“You work with what you got,” said Xenos. “It’s all about the context and who actually wants to support the effort. But, the people are here [in Savannah] to support, so it just comes down to whether or not someone wants to take up the responsibility of opening their space.”
Walking into Techno Chapel feels like walking through a portal into a digitized alternative reality, a reality where 158 feet of plastic vines grow from a neon-pink painted stage lined with old mini televisions.True to the DIY mindset, everything in the chapel was either already owned, borrowed, or cheaply-sourced-then-manipulated. But together, it doesn’t look cheap. It looks like a visual overflow of a unified creative energy.
Xenos said, “You have to be authentic to the belief of the space, going outside your comfort zone with visuals or music or atmosphere in a way that circles back to the realm of what happens there.”
The notion of authenticity may seem counterintuitive to the idea of curating an artistically religious experience, but it all comes back to the intention.
The group meets after every show and talks about ways to improve the experience for the next time. Running the venue involves paperwork and spreadsheets, guidelines and critical thinking.
“Techno Chapel has a brand, and a brand has rules, and the rules exist because creating limitations can inspire greater creativity,” said Koeger.Sometimes on weekends, I watch the people going in and out from the window in my living room. Always, I am intrigued by the diversity of the people arriving to worship the gods of electronic music together.
“Every time I come in, there’s people from all different cliques and walks of life talking to each other, and that’s pretty exciting,” said Klepfer.
“Probably, most of SCAD has been in our apartment at lease once, and a lot of Savannah, too,” stated Placide in agreement.
One of the reasons why Techno Chapel has been able to thrive is because it fills a gap in the music scene in Savannah. From the beginning, they found a niche and milked it. The team doesn’t have any trouble finding artists to play shows, because the offbeat environment (inspired by the Vapor Wave movement and enhanced by video projections), along with a supportive crowd who isn’t afraid to dance, is something that people want to be a part of.
But in the end, it comes down to more than just the people on the stage. “It’s all about the squad. We always make jokes about that, but at the end of the day: squad. It’s the crew. It’s the extended crew. It’s the fans, it’s the artists. We’re together in this,” said Xenos.
The future of the chapel remains up in the air, if only because the stewards are deciding where to land next. As the squad scatters after graduation, Koeger wants to see different locations of Techno Chapel open up around the country, spreading the brand and its zest for the DIY lifestyle. He’s also in the process of training in a new “priest,” so that the current Savannah venue will continue to hold service.
Many a weary art student has found release and rejuvenation inside the living room at 522 East Henry Street. Some of us have even experienced pivotal coming-of-age-moments on the front steps. It’s more than just a college house. It’s a community of artists supporting other artists, celebrating experimental art at its most authentic; that’s the essence of Techno Chapel. It’s a home.
Techno Chapel will be releasing a music compilation featuring releases by many of the people who run it, in May. Follow them on Facebook or check out their website for information about upcoming shows and events.