A tiny art gallery has become a huge player in Everett’s local music scene.
Black Lab Gallery, which opened three years ago on Hewitt Avenue after moving to Everett from Seattle, touts itself as a place “where the art doesn’t suck.” And it’s become more than a space to peruse paintings.
The gallery, run by a mother-daughter team, has become one of Everett’s go-to spots for live music, from folk-rock to hip-hop. There are shows by local musicians nearly every weekend.
The former vanguard local music venue, The Cannery, run by the Everett Music Initiative, closed shop, although the initiative continues to host shows and festivals in town.
But a need remained. That’s where Black Lab Gallery, which has a maximum capacity of about 125 but feels crowded with 50 bodies, helped fill a void.
“The doors opened and someone asked if they could play,” said gallery owner Bella Valencia, adding that Black Lab is named for a photography dark room, not a dog.
“You had all these people who needed a place to play,” said her daughter, Nicole Valencia, who manages the bar and books musicians at the gallery.
Black Lab has a broad mission: Support the artists. That covers painters and pianists, sculptors and singers.
Musicians in town have noticed.
“Black Lab is one of the only ones giving space for young talent in the city,” said Everett electronic musician Mac Dobbins, 30, who has performed and hosted a monthly show there. “It’s definitely changed things.”
Venues for live music dot downtown Everett. Everett Music Initiative hosts concerts at Scuttlebutt Taproom and the Fisherman’s Village Music Festival. There’s music for a variety of tastes; another Hewitt Avenue venue, Tony V’s Garage, books hard-rock and metal bands in addition to the alternative-indie musicians that Black Lab draws.
In addition, Black Lab has become a place for up-and-comers. Its small size means the Valencias don’t worry about turning over drinks to make money, and bands don’t fret about playing to an empty room.
The gallery at 1618 Hewitt Ave. is sandwiched between Subway and Yummy Banh Mi. The gallery is long and narrow from the front door to the back, where the stage was built. About halfway down the length is a partition that allows the place to serve beer, hard seltzers and wine and remain an all-ages venue. Near the partition is the sound booth, where an audio engineer can manage the levels during a show.
“It’s tough to be legit. It’s not cheap,” Bella Valencia said of establishing the all-ages venue. “It’s worth it, I hope.”
Allowing teens into the scene means they have a place to take part in the art. Doug Evans, who plays synth, bass and drums in the Everett band I Will Keep Your Ghost, said he sees Black Lab Gallery as a beacon for young musicians.
“I’m 30 years old, and I’ve been playing music since I was a kid,” he said. “The gallery is a place where musicians can develop their songs, their stage presence, and be somewhere that young people can aspire to perform.”
The alternative group The Band Van Dog played their first show at Black Lab. Bass player Kellan Duffy, 29, said the audience was lively.
“When we were younger and didn’t know a lot of stuff, it was hard to imagine an exchange of energy with the crowd,” Duffy said. “I was happy that we finally got to have that experience that night.”
Evans said I Will Keep Your Ghost had a similar experience with its show there.
“It was fun, it was easy, and all of my best friends were there,” he said.
Almost all the money taken at the door, usually around $10 for the cover charge, goes to the musicians. It’s an uncommon split, Duffy and Evans said. The Valencias do that because of their mission to support the artists, which in turn further helps cultivate musicians in the area.
“Black Lab seems to be small enough of an operation to sustain itself, and minimalistic enough to cover all its bases without compromising,” Duffy said.
As it continues to host weekly concerts, the Valencias are eager to provide space and time to those who want it. And they would like to see it go on indefinitely.
“What I want to see is something that lives past me,” Bella Valencia said. “I want to come back when I’m 89.”
If you go
Black Lab Galley, 1618 Hewitt Ave., Everett, is typically open 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday — but extends its hours when events are scheduled. Call 425-512-9476 or find Black Lab Gallery on Facebook for more information.
Washington North Coast Magazine
This article is featured in the winter issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.
Clarification: An earlier version did not acknowledge the array of genres booked by Tony V’s Garage.