While Oak Harbor’s music scene hasn’t suffered from a lack of talent over the decades, there have been few discernible live venues for talent to thrive.
Some options for local acts include an occasional gig at the International Order of Odd Fellows Temple, a set at a festival, or playing for the Pioneer Way bar crowds -— assuming the band is out of high school.
With a vibrant music scene lurking in the shadows, a 30-year musician has heard the plight of young artists, and is coming to the rescue.
Patrick Hammer and his group of friends are putting together a state-of-the-art recording studio and all-ages venue named Top O’The Hill Studio.
The place is easy to miss in its offbeat location on Ault Field Road, nestled behind a tattoo parlor and next to a barber shop. The studio is spacious, 4,000 square feet, including two control rooms, live rooms, a stage and four isolation booths. The building is two-stories.
“It’s a studio built for musicians by musicians,” Hammer said.
Hammer had previous success with small-scale garage studios, but after his retirement from the Navy his desire to open a large-size studio came to fruition. He hired on fellow musicians Dustin Showers, Perry Emge and Josh Bruegger.
The studio is capable of streaming live onto Oak Harbor’s KWDB 1100 AM, and there’s talk of a partnership for the station’s evening local music lineup.
“Musicians could hear themselves on the radio after a recording,” Bruegger, the studio’s promoter, said.
Top O’The Hill has been online and functional since February, but the staff are having a soft opening until they wrap up construction. Hammer has taken on most of the projects himself, and said they will soon begin work on control room A, and will line the isolation rooms with cinderblock for soundproofing.
“It will be dead in here,” Hammer said, of the insulation.
Several musicians have already flocked to the studio for a recording session, including Oak Harbor bands Potbelly and Raise the Fallen. The staff is also holding a summer concert series, with live shows each Saturday. A U-shaped catwalk was erected above the stage, which can fit over 50 people, Bruegger said.
“When they’re standing along the catwalk, people aren’t blasted in the face by the speakers,” he said.
The studio includes an upstairs VIP lounge, with a large couch for bands to relax before sets and an adjacent bedroom, kitchen, laundry room and bathroom for overnight recording sessions.
“It’s essentially a one-stop shop for artists,” Bruegger said.
The grand opening will likely be held at the end of August, Bruegger said. Staff are putting together an end of summer, outdoor music festival in a field behind Top O’The Hill. They plan to invite local vendors.
“This really spiraled into a cool little thing,” Hammer said.
Top O’The Hill is located at 979 Ault Field Rd. in Oak Harbor. For more information on upcoming shows, rates or about the studio, visit www.topofthehillstudio.com, or call 360-672-4420.