Wave & Circuit’s storefront on South Higgins Avenue is unassuming.
The sign helps a little — the slickly designed black-and-white awning says “An Idea Space, music/art/lit/tech.” But one would be forgiven for still being a little unsure of what’s up.
That’s when co-founder Jay Bruns hopes you come inside.
“I would much rather have a meaningful conversation with one person who walks through the door instead of have a hundred people who still don’t know what Wave & Circuit is,” Bruns said.
Bruns, an artist and musician and his partner Joe Glassy (also a musician) used to do their information technology work out of a “postage stamp” of an office downtown, and always bandied about the idea of hosting concerts or events of some kind.
“Something where we could have First Friday or music or tech,” Bruns said.
In their South Higgins space they can have both worlds, a public-facing space in the front room and offices in the back, with both available during events by wheeling desks and furniture out of the way.
They want to give a home to a budding creative scene they saw in Missoula, by being open to pretty literally any idea, the weirder the better, and fostering a space that was open to things that couldn’t find a home elsewhere.
“There’s a lot of weird stuff right now,” creative director Mia Soza said. The artist, designer and musician helps book shows and organize events, as well as performing herself occasionally (most notably as part of electronica duo Boy Feud).
What counts as weird stuff? Well, there’s Naomi Segel’s Lakebottom Sound events, which combine musical improv and jam sessions. Performance art like Noelle Huser’s “Pop!” or a visit from Berlin-based artist the Glad Scientist, who made virtual reality art in front of a live audience.
Glassy noted John Sporman and Ed Stalling’s live film score with the 1929 Russian movie, “Man With a Movie Camera.”
“You don’t find many places in Missoula, it turns out, that would be a good home for that,” he said.
The two have a “batteries included” philosophy to hosting events, Glassy said. That means they're providing as much technical support as possible to people who may not have all the equipment or expertise to pull of their event. “Creative enablers,” is how Bruns put it.
There’s a mixing board, a high-end audio/visual system including TVs, projectors and a live cam feed linking both rooms. There’s all the musical equipment one could need in microphones, amplifiers and instruments. Bruns and Glassy are well-versed in all of it, on hand to record a band’s set live, or help pull off multimedia art events.
“Enabling” extends to renting out the space, which does cost money, though Bruns and Glassy work to keep the fee from being a roadblock. Admission to many Wave & Circuit events is donation-based.
“We don’t want to turn down an event because it won’t make money,” Bruns said. “It’s a fine line.”
The team also focuses on learning opportunities — they’ve hosted a guitar pedal workshop, where musicians can come and share their effects pedals for a night of testing and teaching. Or an art/tech night where all the shop’s synthesizer gear is laid out for attendees to toy with.
Putting it mildly, Glassy said, “there’s not a definite niche we’re looking at.”
The duo held six or seven shows over the summer after opening in June, and have only sped up since then, though Glassy thought “it would be a quiet winter.”
But heading into 2019, Glassy was proud to note they have an unofficial circle of local artists and musicians (he listed Bob Wire, Anthony Brown, Soza and Koby Silverman), almost all of whom played Wave & Circuit, then kept coming back.
There’s one or two regular events as well, like the art/tech meet-up and Wire’s Bob +1 concerts, where the Missoula musician invites a guest to accompany him.
He hoped the next year brought more regular events and continued diversity to the local art and music passing through Wave & Circuit.
Glassy and Bruns also want to add more to their business model by renting out equipment and services like PA systems, projectors, design work and in-house live recordings.
Bruns looked forward to getting a virtual reality headset and the potential installation of an interactive screen in the front window, that will have shapes and colors shifting in reaction to passers-by.
“We tend to mystify our neighbors,” Bruns said, adding that he loves to greet walk-ins who may not have meant to step into Wave & Circuit’s high-tech art bubble.
“Even if people meant to walk into ESP or the board game store,” he said, “we like to be inclusive and we like to be open-minded.”
So they encourage playing around, with Glassy emphasizing their “no ‘no-touching’” policy.
“It’s the funnest way to learn things, is by helping others,” Soza said.
On Thursday, Soza was running models through the shop’s 3-D printer, trying to make a sturdy screw clamp that could be used around the shop for hanging things from the walls or holding audio cables. She showed off a miniature milk crate, 3-D printed to hold SD cards.
Nearly everyone who visits the shop is encouraged to sit in the “egg chair,” an enclosed oval chair lined with sound-dampening foam. Although it’s wide-open, talking while sitting in the chair feels like you’re talking to yourself.
There’s biofeedback nodes hooked up to a synthesizer. Hold both of the pads in your hand and the synthesizer spits back “your” noises. It works with plants or animals as well.
Guitars, amps, keyboards and computers are available for impromptu music-making.
Is there anything that doesn’t fit in Wave & Circuit?
“We’ll probably never have a five or six-piece heavy metal band here,” Glassy said. “It’s a small space for bands that are loud and want to shred.”