FLYER Q&A: Crafting spaces: Vaughn Mims and Jordan Pitts on building community through live music

Vaughn Mims (left) and Jordan Pitts of The HopOut()

Vaughn Mims and Jordan Pitts have been making unique and unexpected shows happen in Fayetteville for a few years now. Their former venue HopOut became the destination for local punk and touring underground musicians. These shows were community driven and introduced a lot of people to local artists and the idea of DIY.

Currently without a home venue, HopOut will now be presenting shows at venues across Northwest Arkansas. Their first HopOut Presents show is on Sunday, Oct. 8 at George’s Majestic Lounge and features Modeling, Chrono Wizard, Sad Palomino, Peach Blush and Second Life.
You can get tickets, listen to the bands and donate to future events at their Linktree page.

This show is also supported by local groups AMMPlify NWA (through their Bridging and Belonging Grant from Wal-Mart Foundation), Experience Fayetteville, Fayetteville Flyer, KXUA, On The Map, KUAF and Fossil Cove Brewing.

I talked to Vaughn and Jordan of HopOut about their former venue and plans moving forward.

What got you started out in DIY shows? Is there a specific moment or show where everything clicked and you wanted to be involved?

Jordan: My intro to and love for the DIY scene began while I was attending college at the University of Arkansas for architecture and design. I’d always been an artist and creative, but college was a uniquely wonderful and difficult exercise in self discovery. I loved the program I was in and friends I had made, but didn’t necessarily feel like I’d found a place of belonging. In 2016, I was invited to my first Backspace show where I saw The Phlegms for the first time (the first of many) and was immediately enamored. The energy, the community, the accessibility, the intersection of art and music, the simplicity of creating a space and filling it with people. It opened me up to a world I had never seen or been a part of, and it made me feel like I was part of something bigger, something real. I like to credit that experience with altering the path I continued on as a young adult, informing a new perspective on community and space making, and where that passion moves me today.

Vaughn: I was always interested in the idea of a local scene and house shows. I was never as involved as I wanted to be in Little Rock, but always thought a community of people that played and attended shows in houses and local venues was such a cool thing. Just a large network of friends that shared common interests and supported each other while pursuing those interests. I grew up as a visual artist and had my first art shows at a local DIY gallery and attended some really cool events.

Can you give us a brief history of your house venues?

Vaughn: My first house venue was Laura Lee House, which was started by accident and coincidence. We hosted a handful of shows and I fell in love with the whole idea of hosting music in my living room or kitchen. After living in a few apartments, I ended up in a house again in 2020. We started hosting shows and had a day event before Covid hit. I’d booked shows for the next month or so but sadly didn’t get to follow through and only ran Oakland House for about three or four months. The HopOut started after Covid became more manageable. While the other two venues didn’t last terribly long, I felt a lot more capable of really going at it for this venue. I’d done a few day events with Jordan and got the hang of booking and hosting just enough to feel confident in jumping back in.

Jordan: Vaughn and I met in 2018 and quickly realized how many interests we shared. Over the years we went to countless DIY shows and events together, but eventually began planning our own events and day fests, and Vaughn opened two house venues in the process: Laura Lee and Oakland House. It was awesome to witness and be a part of these early spaces, seeing how each grew and changed and adjusted to fit different needs in the scene. Although the first two venues were relatively short-lived, we learned a lot and it feels like those experiences definitely prepared us for HopOut.

In 2022, Vaughn came into a living situation where he could begin hosting again and was able to start HopOut, which was also in response to several years of COVID and lockdowns, and the closure of two cornerstones of the Fayetteville DIY scene – LaLaLand and Backspace. The pattern of losing DIY spaces in the region was continuing as it had for years before we became a part of the scene, and there was a void in the community. The HopOut slowly began to fill that, and it is still one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of.

Seeing a very small living room or backyard transform into a performance space. Learning more about what it takes to run a venue, between safety, logistics, event planning, booking, marketing, and space making. Meeting countless musicians, artists, and personalities both traveling and local. Getting to commune with people I know and people I don’t. Bonding through thrashing, screaming, dancing, and sweating (a lot). Seeing people respect us and the space because they loved it as much as we did. We couldn’t have done it without the support from the community, all of the friends and locals that came out and shared the space with us, and all of the bands and artists that trusted us to give them a safe space to perform and showcase their talents. We learned a lot together, and we shared a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to make it successful. But Vaughn made HopOut into something truly special, and I’m beyond grateful for having been a part of it.

What were your favorite HopOut house shows? And what made them memorable to you?

Jordan: Almost every show is memorable in one way or another. We had so many amazing artists come through the house it’s really difficult to pick! But just to name a few…

Rickshaw Billies Burger Patrol is one of my favorite bands. Getting to see them in such an intimate setting, getting to feel the energy and experience the heavy catchy goodness, while also jumping around with friends, was my definition of a good time. It was also really special getting to see Clementine Was Right at The HopOut. Their music is emotionally stimulating in such a beautiful way, and the whole band is so sweet. It was also memorable because this was their last show on a tour that Vaughn actually joined them for, after spending weeks learning their songs on bass and joining the band on tour as a non-bass player. Sweatfest is a bit of a catchall since we had 11 bands come out for the day fest, but damn what a good time. It is so much work putting together another day fest, but we were so proud of how it came together, especially having around 200 people attend throughout the day, plus a ton of really great vendors. Some of my favorites I got to catch when we weren’t running around the event were Always Tired, Peach Blush, and The Phlegms.

Vaughn: Picking a favorite show is pretty hard. We had a handful of bluegrass, acoustic and folk shows that were super intimate and beautiful. Those were just heartwarming and felt very pure. I also loved having a full house during loud and rowdy bands. I think Sweatfest might be the most proud I’ve been of a show. We had 11 bands with over 200 people at the house that day. We had music inside and outside with vendors as well. Every band was loud and full of energy and people responded to that in a really fun way. Our hardwood was turned to dirt, we raised money for Cocoon Collective, and we had a super smooth day fest with little to no problems. No complaints from neighbors, no cops, nothing. I’d worked really hard on pushing our rules and communicating with the neighborhood about the event and got a lot of support and it felt really good.

You have a show at George’s Majestic Lounge on Sunday, Oct. 8. How did that lineup come together?

Jordan: Vaughn has always been strategic and really talented at putting a lineup together that’s either complimentary or creates a unique experience. The idea for Bucket Brigade was to provide a fresh experience with bands that span genres, and who haven’t necessarily played together– but still work as a whole. From experimental electronic to indie rock, dream punk to rock ‘n’ roll, all the way to hardcore. There’s something for everyone.

Vaughn: Making the lineup for Bucket Brigade was kind of hard. We have lots of great bands in Fayetteville and a ton of great bands in Little Rock that I want to work with more. I was originally looking at some out-of-state bands but wasn’t able to make it work. But I was happy to have an all Arkansas show. With the house being gone, I felt a lot of pressure to have a really good show for our first show after the house and at an official venue. I wanted something really fresh and mixed genre so it felt accessible and interesting to anyone and everyone. We have a great lineup of some favorites and a few new bands as well. The energy is going to be a nice flow that I’m really excited about.

What types of shows are you planning now? Who would you like to see in Fayetteville?

Vaughn: The immediate future of booking for us is still fairly uncertain. Adjusting to booking with venues and working with their schedules and openings is new and a bit harder. We’re going to be focused on supporting local/traveling acts that are in the DIY realm. I look forward to starting to work with bigger bands as well. There’s a few out-of-state bands that I’ve really enjoyed working with, like Rickshaws Billie Burger Patrol, Teethe, Social Cinema, Koningsor, and a few others. There’s lots of bands that I’m still discovering and I’m learning more about the process of reaching out to new bands that fit a different scale, which is exciting.

Jordan: Our immediate goal is to plan the next installment of Sweatfest, which historically falls in the punk to hardcore range. Last year’s event was so successful, and we’re hoping to find the right space to host the next phase this upcoming winter. For me personally, I would really like to help HopOut expand to showcasing other genres as well, specifically rap, hiphop, and R&B, where there are a lot less dedicated spaces for in NWA. Outside of that, it would be great to start pulling in even more traveling acts than we did at the house, while also maintaining space for local acts. There is a lot of incredible talent and bands growing in this region that we haven’t had the chance to highlight yet, so that will definitely remain a major goal of ours. And of course, as a house venue we didn’t have the resources to book larger acts – so growing enough and finding our footing outside of the house to be able to do that would be really awesome.

What is your ideal venue? Where are you hoping to book and promote shows?

Jordan: The ideal venue is one of our own, or more poignantly one of the community. It’s a big dream, and a difficult one to reach, but nothing compares to the freedom and control of running your own space, opening it up in a way that benefits the community, promotes safety and inclusion, highlights artists and musicians, and creates a true third space. But until that time we’re definitely excited to break into booking and event promotion and would love to get more involved with venues like George’s Majestic Lounge and Smoke & Barrel, as well as independent spaces like house venues, and community spaces like The Medium and CACHE studios.

Vaughn: My ideal venue is an all ages DIY venue. My preference limits working with bars. I’m a big believer in all ages, accessible, and creating a safe space within the venue. Sadly bars have obvious age restrictions and aren’t always accessible or safe. The ultimate goal for me and The HopOut is to become a venue again. I love running the events and shows within my own venue and having more control over the space and its rules and general functionality. I think all age venues are important for connecting the community better and giving younger people an outlet/chance to be inspired to become a creative. A DIY venue can also open the doors to other functions like art shows, day fests, community events and resources , practice spaces, etc. and at the end of the day- The HopOuts biggest goal is to be a safe third place for people to go.

Who are your favorite artists in Arkansas?

Vaughn: Wow, picking a few favorites is pretty hard. I’ve always gravitated more toward heavy and energetic music but I’ve become a lot more open and inspired by different genres since moving to Fayetteville. We have Chrono Wizard playing at Bucket Brigade and I’ve been super excited about them starting to play shows recently. They’re definitely a new favorite. Always Tired had their first show at The HopOut and I love those guys and their music, and they’re getting into traveling more. Dryer Fire is a sick band from Little Rock and I’m super excited to have them at our PreShow. Jude Brothers is a wonderful person and friend and one of the most talented and unique artists I know and have heard. I guess a few others would include The Phlegms, Zilla, Second Life, Condemn, 3DEADIDOLS, Pura Coco, Zashed, Sad Palomino, Peach Blush, Idle Valley, and a whole lot more. I’m missing a lot. Almost an unfair question to all the amazing musicians we have in this state.

Jordan: It’s really hard to pick but I’ll name just a few that I’ve been listening to lately! The Phlegms, A Dark Skinned Ghost, Jude Brothers, Modeling, Obliviate, Peach Blush, Dylan Earl, Always Tired, Colour Design, Olympics, Nick Shoulders. The list goes on, and I swear I’m introduced to more Arkansas talent everyday.

You have a HopOut donation link now. What would donations help you accomplish?

Jordan: Moving from a strictly DIY house venue out into the real world isn’t easy. Running DIY spaces isn’t easy either, but it’s something we’ve always been able to do without any funding. But to keep HopOut alive and running outside of the DIY world is going to take more effort, and even more funding. When you donate you’re helping us break into the booking scene, pay artists, expand our reach, and keep the heart of DIY alive without a house.

Vaughn: The HopOut has always functioned with little to no funding (emphasis on the no funding). There are times where it’s hard to pay bands depending on turnout, or have the funding or resources for larger events like Sweat Fest. While we still figure out how we’re going to function without the house, having funding and resources will make a big difference. We don’t have anything consistent going on to be able to continue making money at the door to pay bands, get equipment, or possibly pay to use a space. Again, the end goal is to have a venue (house or commercial) and everything costs money. I’ve always pushed really hard to not ask for money, or make any money from our house shows, but if we want to continue doing this long term then money is just something we have to work with. It’s definitely my least favorite part- outside of paying bands. I just want to book cool bands and artists and pay them and not worry about the rise in rent and inaccessibility for housing and spaces in Fayetteville.

Are there any seasonal flavors you’re looking forward to?

Jordan: Green curry, a lot of soup, red beans and rice, and coffee cake. Also love a good Cab Sauv in the cold months.

Vaughn: Hot coffee. Green curry. Petra Cafe’s potato soup.

What are your go-to small businesses in Fayetteville? Why do you enjoy them?

Vaughn: Bottle Rocket and Margarets and two of my favorite food trucks. They reside in the South side of town at the 7th Street lot where High Ground Salon is located. They have great food and they’re really great people that are excited to get things rolling in our city. Ozark Holler Mutts is a great non profit ran by friends. They rehome dumped dogs and get them fixed and caught up on shots. They’re doing really great things and have rehomed a lot of dogs. While I work there, I’m a big fan of Petra. Saleh is a great boss and has ran Petra for 20 years and loves this town. We make almost everything in house. I also love to hit Los Bobos for a torta as much as I can.

Jordan: We eat at Bottle Rocket Subs and Margarets Juan Rose a lot. Not just because they’re both run by amazing friends respectively, but the food is incredible, and it’s always a nice time at 7th Street Lot. Cheap Thrills is the go-to for awesome secondhand and vintage clothing and goodies. Dickson Street Bookshop is my favorite place to pop in and meander throughout the rows and rows of books – you’ll always find something special there. Ozark Holler Mutts has my heart because they are some of the most giving people I know and they rehabilitate and rehome abandoned dogs – definitely give them a follow! Buster Bellys is our version of Cheers, we love the regulars and bartenders, and are so excited about the new live music that’s being introduced there.