USU worker purchases and renovates WhySound music venue

In an article run by the Utah Statesman in October, WhySound merchandise store manager Cory Castillo engendered hope about the local music venue’s closure.

“Some people think it’s a little more fatalistic than it is,” Castillo said. “(The owner’s) moving out, we don’t know who’s going to move in yet and it still is what it is.”

Castillo’s faith in WhySound’s continuation was not displaced. Less than one month after WhySound closed its doors, Aaron Cardiel, a former Utah State University student and a current employee in the Taggart Student Center, bought WhySound for $3,500. He plans to renovate and reopen the music venue before the end of the year.

Cardiel has worked at the TSC for over a year doing sound and light production for events around campus. He said he didn’t attend the local venue often before deciding to purchase it from previous owner Jett Fesler.

“As someone who does the sound for shows, it’s kinda hard to go to shows all the time,” Cardiel said. “I would just want to be behind the soundboard. I only came (to WhySound) a few times but I definitely saw potential in it. When I heard it was going out of business, I thought to myself, ‘I have all the skills necessary to run this.’”

From there, Cardiel said he jumped in headfirst. The name of the venue will remain the same, but Cardiel has plans to renovate WhySound before hosting the first show there. Cardiel has confirmed he will reopen the recording studio inside WhySound after the music venue is running smoothly.

“I was originally going to have the first show a week ago, but that didn’t happen because I would rather it be completely changed before people come in,” Cardiel said. “I want to wow them from the beginning.”

Last week, Cardiel and a group of volunteers from Aggie Radio began renovating the venue. Volunteers scraped the red WhySound logo off the storefront windows, removed old logos, gave the walls new coats of black paint, moved the stage to the other side of the room, and even demolished a wall to increase space inside.

“I hope to make it a bigger space so people can breathe more than they used to be able to,” Cardiel said. “I’d like WhySound to be a place that people come to hang out and socialize.”

Eden Withers, a USU sophomore and one of the volunteers helping to renovate WhySound, said having a music scene in Logan is important to her because it’s a way she connects with friends.

“It brings a lot more appeal to staying here in Logan,” she said. “I was super bummed when I heard WhySound was closing. When I heard it was reopening, I decided to come and help with its remodel because I wanted to get to know the new owner and find out how it’s going to work. I just wanted to help out so we can have a good music scene.”

JD Herndon, a master student in the biology department at USU and the director of Aggie Radio, said he came to help renovate the space because WhySound is one of the few places to see a great local show in Cache Valley.

“I’m stoked this place is not going away and I wanted to be here for its rebirth,” he said.

Herndon said one of his goals as the director of the college radio station is to bring more musicians to Cache Valley, something that wouldn’t be possible if local music venues disappear.

“I would really love if we could get to the point where we involve our university community and the overall Logan community and have shows that marry people together,” he said. “We’ve just gotta get more music here.”

WhySound was originally opened in 2008 by Tim Moes. Fesler bought the venue in 2015, who ran it until he and his wife moved to Salt Lake City and closed the venue at the end of October. Before its closure, Fesler was struggling to keep the venue financially stable.

Isaac Morales, Aggie Radio events director and a USU senior studying environmental chemistry, believes WhySound will be successful as long as it showcases all genres of music and hosts a variety of events.

“You’ve got to have a folk show for the local people, an indie show for the students on campus, and then a Harry Potter trivia night so everyone can come nerd out for a little bit,” he said. “Variety is key in my opinion.”

Morales also believes both WhySound and The Cache, a new music and event space that opened around the same time as WhySound’s closure, will have to work together for them both to succeed.

“I personally think with two venues in town, it’s going to be more difficult for both of them if they work against each other,” he said. “I think collaboration can get much more done than competition. It’s the same goal, really, bring people out, get them listening to the music.”

Cardiel agrees.

“I think two venues are better than one. We can work together and work off of each other. It’s great to have more than one place for local music,” he said.

As a graduate student, Herndon said he has seen many Utah State students move out of Logan shortly after obtaining their degrees. He hopes growing the creative culture of Cache Valley will help retain the critical and creative thinkers of the university and will be a reason for them to stay in town even after they graduate.

“One of the things I love about living in Logan is the fact that I can ride my bike 20 minutes and I’m in the mountains hiking. Places like that all over the country usually have a creative subculture,” he said. “I hope we have even bigger art galleries in the future, music festivals in the future, and if we keep these scientific minds here, maybe we will even have cleaner air. There’s a lot of potential that this little college town has to tap into.”

Morales believes arts organizations and businesses like Aggie Radio, WhySound and The Cache are “cultural doors,” avenues for community members to connect with each other. He encouraged his fellow Aggies and the Logan community as a whole to be supportive of the local arts and music scene.

“You could live your whole life in this town and never go to an art gallery. You could never step foot in a music venue,” he said. “We can do as much work as we want to make the perfect venue, to bring the perfect bands to town. All that is a moot point if people don’t come. The music scene isn’t just the musicians. If you want the local arts culture to succeed, you’ve got to bring yourself into it.”

The newly-renovated WhySound music venue will be hosting a grand re-opening party and concert this Friday and Saturday. Those who wish to aid in the reopening of WhySound can donate to Cardiel’s GoFundMe.

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