Jesse Thelonious Vance catapulted himself to the front of St. Pete’s young artist counterculture when he established The Venture Compound two and half years ago in the Warehouse Arts District.
The grungy 3,000-square-foot compound hosts experimental art, music and film events, including the St. Pete Noise Fest, a two-day cacophony of sound that each fall draws dozens of acts from across the country.
Working his tail off at every show is Vance –– a 29-year-old noise artist who bounced all over the place before landing in St. Pete, where he saw the opportunity to carve out a venue for emerging artists who “don’t make Jimmy Buffett sunset paintings.”
The Venture Compound, which once housed a coffee roaster and a home improvement warehouse, is St. Pete’s version of Andy Warhol’s Factory, which makes Vance the city’s unofficial Warhol.
Admittedly cash-strapped, Vance describes his lifestyle as “the most fun you can have on food stamps.” When he’s not curating an art show, building a sound stage or working at St. Petersburg College, where he moonlights as a sound technician, he’s browsing thrift stores and catching up on sleep at St. Pete Community Acupuncture.
“I don’t go out often,” he says. “I generally can’t afford it. Making underground music is not a lucrative art.”
Where he gets tipsy off one drink: Lucky Star Lounge.
“It’s this tiny hole-in-the-wall gay bar at 28th and Central. They pour drinks like they’re trying to kill you.”
Where he flocks for soul food: Manna From Heaven.
“It’s amazing. They have fried chicken on mashed potatoes covered in gravy. That’s all you need to know.”
Where he places most fast food orders: The Publix Deli counter.
“I’ll get anything they make at the deli with various meat on it. I don’t discriminate between meat. I’m actually in the middle of eating one right now –– the Publix Ultimate.”
Where he goes for a break from the noise: Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.
“There are a lot of really great parks in Pinellas County. Beyond the condo-covered beaches, the parks are our treasures.”
Where he shops for used VHS tapes: St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.
“I found a 1980s porn [flick] there and some unopened Betamax, which I would have bought if I had a Betamax player. We like projecting the porn behind bands when they’re playing [at The Venture Compound].”
Where he shops for creepy conversation pieces: The Goodwill Bargain Barn in Sarasota.
“That’s where they ship the stuff that’s later distributed to Goodwill stores. It’s the type of place where you find an old prosthetic hand and a lot of moving Christmas dolls that look at you with their cold dead eyes.”
Where he sees free concerts: St. Petersburg College.
“The SPC Community Concert Band had some big shot movie composer come out from L.A. to compose this really cool piece specifically for them. People were playing vibraphones. The whole SPC Music Center is amazing, actually. They’ve got a huge pipe organ and a grand piano. People probably don’t even realize they can see these amazing concerts for free.”
Where he goes to unwind if he can scrounge up the money: St. Pete Community Acupuncture.
“You sit down in a room with relaxing music, fall asleep for an hour and let them stick needles in you. I get better sleep there than I do anywhere else, especially in the summer when it’s oppressively hot. The room is cool, dark and air-conditioned. You pay on a sliding scale depending on what you can afford.”
Where he mingles with likeminded people: St. Pete Noise Fest.
“The Venture Compound has had the privilege of hosting it the last couple of years. We have people literally come from all over the world to perform and attend. It’s incredible.”
What he drinks when he’s broke: “Roadmosas.”
“You buy orange juice and the cheapest champagne you can find. You pass the OJ between you and your friends until you have enough room to pour in the champagne. You can drink ‘roadmosas’ legally on Madeira Beach, parts of Treasure Island and Sunset Beach as long as it’s not in a glass bottle.”
Where he goes to get his cult on: Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero.
“They were a weird cult-y type of religion that believed the earth’s surface was inside of a sphere and all the universe was contained in the sphere. They also didn’t believe in sex.”
Where he goes to drink a 40: Cycle Brewing.
“They have a malt liquor called Foty. As far as I know Cycle is the only local tasting room where you can get a craft beer for $3.”
Where he goes to be saved by the bell: Episcopal Church of Ascension in Downtown Clearwater.
“The Carillon is played every Sunday morning before and after service. Carillons are big bell towers. They’re the heaviest and possibly the rarest musical instruments in the world.”