Jesse Vance kneels on the floor at the Museum of Fine Arts on a balmy St. Pete evening, flanked by a synthesizer, a laptop, a saxophone and other unidentifiable electronic paraphernalia. His close confidant and business associate Bradley Kokay stands at the ready in front of a blank canvas.
Then: music. A series of electronic plinks make their way from Vance’s computer, and Kokay sets about pasting bits of paper to the canvas. Static crackles from ancient televisions stacked behind Vance.
Then: chaos. The TV displays go red and Vance dons a gas mask, squealing into a concealed microphone as he stalks his way through the befuddled patrons gathered for the opening of a recent exhibition at the MFA celebrating color.
Vance, performing that night as DC9V, is far from the most imposing figure in the burgeoning Bay Area experimental music scene, but he may very well be the most important. Vance is something like the art school version of the player/coach/general manager/waterboy archetype, a man whose hats number far too many to count. As the head of both the Pangaea Project and Venture Compound (the former a series of St. Petersburg-based experimental concerts, the latter an art studio that often plays home to the most out-there creations), Vance is a busybody, just like so many others who work in experimental forms of art. But in a genre where the main practitioners usually emphasize the off-putting aspects of their nauseous grind, and where those who throw the shows tend to do so in secret — Vance intends to shift the paradigm. His motives for making music, and for putting on shows through Pangaea and Venture, are as evangelical as they are artistic.
“The mission more and more is about keeping cool people here. We’re about making here cool. We’re about making here a place worth living,” Vance explains.
It’s a philosophy at play in the way Venture Compound conducts itself. Rather than remain obscure and allow news of exhibitions and performances to spread solely via word of mouth, Venture has a Facebook and Twitter presence strong enough to reach out to those who might be seeking something more from the Bay area. “There’s always stuff going on that I don’t know about. I’m sitting at home by myself watching Hulu, bored and lonely.” Vance says. “I’ve always wanted to get [word about shows at Venture] out there in case there’s someone like me.”
But as much as the goals for his art are in the present, Vance has the long term in mind. He wants The Venture Compound to “outlive” him.
As long as his electronic cosmos-searching as DC9V continues to be as compelling as it is, and as long as he’s continuing to provide a dynamic and open arts environment to an area that so desperately needs one, Vance needn’t worry about his accomplishments continuing after he’s gone. They’re already worth celebrating right now.