It may be the end of Marc Gaudet’s work day, but on the third floor of the storage facility he manages, the night is just beginning. In one unit, a KISS cover band decked out in full makeup plugs in and gets ready to rock. In another, a folk singer tunes a guitar. An elderly gentleman on a routine trip to his personal storage unit on the same floor pauses while stacking boxes to tap his foot to the sound of some unseen rock star rehearsing a drum solo. Most of the musicians are just getting warmed up, so it’s still relatively quiet, but soon the Bandera location of Lockaway Storage will be home to it’s own kind of weird, wonderful nightly music festival.
Storage facilities and musicians make for an odd combination, but at Lockaway Storage in San Antonio, along with a growing number of other facilities across the country, it’s one that works.
“I have seen really hard metal, thrash, classic rock, contemporary pop-rock,” Gaudet says. “There’s a fairly large range of genres here. It creates a festive feel.”
While other facilities in San Antonio allow bands to practice inside storage units, Gaudet’s facility is the first to actually cater to them. Lockaway Storage’s Bandera location opened in February of 2016 with eight units specially designed for future rock stars and more than 200 units for their future fans (aka everyone else). They advertised at local music shops but most tenants found their way to the space through word of mouth.
“When they built this facility, I thought, wow this is really amazing,” Gaudet says.
The musician-friendly units are shaped like live stages and are available in two sizes: 10x20 and 15x20. They’re designed to accommodate three or four people and they feature electrical outlets so band members can plug in and jam. The units also have double doors and access to a restroom so that nobody’s drummer is forced to put rehearsal on hold in order to drive somewhere else to find one.
Over the past few years, San Antonio has stepped out from under the shadow of its more famous neighbor of Austin to become a musical destination in its own right. While this has certainly resulted in way better live music at every barbecue joint in town, it’s also resulted in a higher demand for practice and storage space. Lockaway Storage satisfies both needs by offering an affordable place for musicians to rehearse and a safe place for them to keep their stuff in between gigs. Current and former tenants often praise the facility’s climate-controlled units as the best place they’ve ever stored their musical instruments. Spaces rent for $185 a month for a 10x20 unit and $252 a month for 15x20 unit. There’s also a $10 charge for electricity. However, just like tickets to any epic concert, all eight units are currently sold out. If you want one, you’re going to have get in line.
“They rented very, very quickly,” Gaudet says. “Within the first two weeks there was a waiting list.”
One of the questions he gets asked fairly often is how he handles the issue of noise. After all, not everyone drops by their storage unit hoping to catch a free show. In addition to letting his future tenants know why they might occasionally hear someone singing “Welcome to the Jungle” while they’re organizing their stuff, he makes sure musicians sign and understand a special agreement. This states that while they can access their units 24 hours a day (good news for gigs that end at 4 AM), they can only practice during certain hours. Sunday through Thursday, they can rehearse from 6AM until 10PM and on Friday and Saturday nights they can rock until midnight. Bands can’t play at full volume and they are required to non-permanently insulate their units, which is easily accomplished with soundproof blankets. They also agree to not drink, smoke, do drugs or trash the place like Keith Moon trashed a certain Michigan Holiday Inn in 1967.
So have the bands followed the rules? Since opening, Gaudet says that he hasn’t received a single complaint from the other tenants or the surrounding community.
“It’s been a really healthy relationship,” he says. “They’re being really respectful.”
It’s a healthy relationship that’s made possible by a storage facility that’s eager to listen to and accommodate its tenants, musicians or not.
When he was initially hired to manage the facility, Gaudet expected it to be pretty straightforward. Instead, he found himself in a position where he was constantly meeting people during some of the most significant, stressful and turbulent times of their lives. To an outsider, a storage facility might seem like merely a place to keep extra items, but to Gaudet it’s a place deeply rooted in significant life events.
“Every single day, I deal with people going through divorces, deaths,” he says. “People selling homes. People deploying.”
When it comes to the musicians who rehearse out of their units, Lockaway Storage is offering them more than just a place to practice; it’s offering them a place to live their dreams.
“What a great life,” Gaudet says. “What a great world.”
So what’s next for the facility? In the future, Gaudet hopes to offer more storage units to bands. Eventually, he’d like to potentially rent out smaller units to teachers looking for a place to give lessons to the next generation of musicians. For now though, strolling the facility and listening to the sound of music streaming out of those third floor units, he’s pretty happy with the way things are.