Silencing the Pistol

In 2005, Joe Hammers opened his West Bottoms loft to experimental art and music. He called it the Pistol Social Club. Following the recent closing of the venue, Hammers answered questions (via Facebook chat) about the Pistol’s five years and why it closed.

The Pitch: This seems really sudden.

Joe Hammers: The announcement was sudden: pow. We reached the end of our five-year plan and achieved what the Pistol attempted, I believe.

What was that?

The Pistol established itself as a viable alternative space for like-minded contemporary performers. It was my interest to introduce Kansas City to national tours and vice versa. A certain kind of act thrives in this environment, makes a happening. It’s something ephemeral that happened there.

You wanted the space to be more about what happened there, rather than about the building?

Oh, no. The beautiful space was essential. It commanded the best from the audiences and performers. Plus, the acoustics are impossibly good — it’s like being inside of a giant’s acoustic guitar. How could you not honor such a grand space? So people did that.

You’re moving on, I see, already putting on Foundation Room shows.

Oh, don’t say that. I’m not a promoter.

Not moving on …

Don’t jinx it. Ha.

Not a promoter. More of a facilitator?

I titled it “Director, Janitor and Executive Teenager.” Director summed up the roles served for the Pistol, which I accomplished the goals of with the help of volunteers. The executive teenager is retired.


Caretaker for the space and the patch of sidewalk on our block. Shows get messy. West Bottoms is messy.

You said you accomplished what the Pistol attempted. Was there anything that wasn’t attempted and you wish had been?

That block, the 1200 block of Union Avenue, I envision as a homegrown entertainment block, like 18th and Wyandotte. It could be something of an Old Westport to the River Market’s plaza. I would imagine the Pistol, or some space, to hold the fort for DIY, contemporary-art culture. And not as a nightlife venture…. Now, the Pistol signage may remain.

Really? To what purpose?

The sign is as iconic as any public art in the city. It has a life as a sculpture. It was made by Burak Duvenci.

Do you have anything else you’d like to say regarding the closure?

The Pistol was a magical place, something of an anomaly, a haven. A beautiful room like that for young art and otherwise overlooked performers is an oddity locally and nationally. It’s something that could have only happened in Kansas City and, somehow, couldn’t happen in Kansas City.

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