Proprietor Emily Moody is already a key figure in local music history, in her own right–not as a performer, but as a facilitator.
“Jacksonville has a long history of great music,“ she says. ”It has always been a mission of mine to highlight and celebrate music created right in our city.” She’s done just that, for almost every notable local band of the past decade-plus, most of whom have played at one of her venues, and all of whom have attended more shows at her venues than any of whom could possibly count by this point.
Jacksonville venue Underbelly, originally operated out of the back of Moody’s former boutique, Anomaly. “We were in that special space for a little over a year and then our lease wasn’t renewed. We found the spot downtown and reopened there in 2011.” An original partner, Moody exited the business in 2013 to pursue other ventures–the venue, which reopened in 2021 is now run a different ownership group.
Moody’s post-Underbelly ventures now include working as the Director of Community Engagement at Phoenix Arts & Innovation District, as well as her marriage to Varick Rosete, Art Director at Tiger Lily, with whom she started the Wolf & Cub Boutique on Laura Street in Downtown Jacksonville July 2016. From there, she helps anchor a key downtown block that also includes Chamblin’s Uptown and the offices of Folio Weekly. The alley adjoining her space is the Little Alley where these new concerts take place.
In her previous incarnation, Moody was a direct link to the lengthy lineage of women promoters and bookers working the Northeast Florida territory over the past 40 years, a partial list of whom would include Cara Murphy (Blue Jay Listening Room), Sailor Jane (Prohibition Kitchen), Christy Frazier (Art Bar/Birdies/The Pearl), Lisa Leuthold (Moto Lounge/Moto Java), Jessica Lally (Jack Rabbits), Lisa Thomas (Thee Imperial), local burlesque boss Sunny Parker, Christina Wagner (Rain Dogs) and the Faircloth Sisters (Einstein A’ Go Go/Theory Shop).
“After Anomaly, I never stopped creating and selling,” says Moody. “In 2015 we had the opportunity to open a pop-up in the Fresh Market shopping center in Brooklyn Station. We took a shot there and saw the business continue to grow. After the short term lease was up there, we started looking for a spot downtown. I’ve always been such a big advocate for downtown (which is why I moved Underbelly there to reopen after the Five points location) and really wanted to take the leap there, which is why we relocated to our current location. Wolf & Cub is very much akin to my original shop. We carry everything from our own line of tees and accessories to small makers from around the community and the country.”
This new venture brings Moody back around to doing what she did with the original Underbelly: activating once-dormant spaces to spotlight new talent. The old Underbelly space was once the fabled graffiti yard where two generations of street artists honed their craft. You can still find tags from the 1990s, hidden in odd spaces. But the spot sat empty for years before Underbelly debuted, complete with its iconic treehouse DJ booth, one of the most Duval design features in history. Many local artists did their first performances ever there, and at least one–the legendary Brian Hicks (1970-2010), leader of Tropic of Cancer–did their last show there.
“From 2013 through 2022, with a couple years absent, I booked all the music at the Cummer Museum. We hosted Free Tuesday Happy Hour at the Cafe, Free Friday night music, the Garden concert series, and the partnership with Duval Folx for Pride, which just had it’s 3rd year event at the Museum this month,” she says. “My grand finale at the Cummer was on my last day working there) was the Mighty Oak Music Festival, which featured 10 local acts over an entire Saturday in the Cummer Gardens last April.”
The Little Alley Shows are just one part of a whole slate of initiatives being rolled out this summer by PlacemakingJax. After Kady Yellow was imported from Flint, Mich. by Jake Gordon and his team at Downtown Vision, she launched an ambitious program for platforming public art, one mostly unprecedented in local history. “The vision behind PlacemakingJax,” Yellow says, “is to open doors for residents, artists, business owners and groups to engage in the creation of pop-up activations or large-scale interventions to transform underused spaces into celebrated community places.” In a very short time, she has become one of the real MVPs of the current era of downtown development, and a fixture in local culture.
“I think there are many people within our cultural community who have been placemaking for 20-plus years without calling it ‘placemaking’,” says Moody, quite correctly. “We’ve been doing the work, creating the vibes and spreading the creative energy, but without the foresight, vision and leadership of Kady Yellow, PlacemakingJax wouldn’t be a thing… There are so many gems in Jacksonville, sometimes you just need to put in a little elbow grease to really polish them up.”
Once PlacemakingJax had been formally established, they began soliciting applications for grants from across the community. The process was open, transparent and exhaustively documented through dozens of public meetings, many of which were even catered. “Through this highly collaborative process,” Yellow says, “we’re building capacity in our residents to produce independently, educating participants on the nuances of city permitting, and contributing to a rich social life in the BID (business improvement district).” The concept offered local creators the opportunity to think outside the box and challenge their own thinking about the space around them. “The goal?” she asks. “A more vibrant and active downtown that supports a growing and healthy business ecosystem.”
Moody’s proposal for Little Alley Shows was one of several that made the final cut. “Little Alley Shows is an exceptional example of effective creative placemaking,” Yellow says. After a sneak preview on ArtWalk Wednesday, June 7, the first official LAS, featuring jazz singer Akia Uwanda, took place on June 8, and four more shows are currently booked for subsequent weeks. “I wanted to do a sneak peek during Artwalk,” says Moody, “although I felt a very important part of this project was that the events [also] be held on NON-Artwalk evenings. I always tell people, Downtown is there 365 days a year, not just 12 nights a year. I want to get people downtown exploring the architecture, the art, the bars and restaurants, etc… All on another night that doesn’t have a built in clientele coming out to party.”
SoulLo Lyons performed on June 22. Lyons is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who’s worked throughout the southeast as a solo act, and had a notable stint playing with Patrick Evan some years back. Che Forreign — a solo artist and member of popular Duval hip-hop collective L.O.V.E. Culture — performs on Wednesday, July 5, which is also ArtWalk. rickoLus is a longtime collaborator of Moody’s, and one of the most uniquely compelling performers that Northeast Florida has ever produced; he plays the following night, Thursday the 6th. This, the first series of Little Alley Shows concludes two weeks later with Jesebel, who performs on Thursday, July 20.
“I’m overwhelmed with all the love people have been showing the space, and the project as a whole,” says Moody. ”I love how turning this long forgotten alleyway into an inviting and magical space can bring the community together by sharing music. I’ve got so many musicians reaching out to be part of the shows and lots of people who are trying to reserve tickets to performances. Due to the size of the space, it’s very limited seating so many shows are already fully booked, which is the BEST problem to have!”
Each show has two performances each night, from 6pm to 7pm, and from 8pm to 9pm. Seating is extremely limited, but all shows have a standing room only option. If you happen to miss your window for a ticket, you can still hear it from the sidewalk outside. Maybe go to Volstead, get a drink and sit in their alley as the sound travels from across the street, and let the ambient noise be the soundtrack for a lazy evening downtown. There will be more of these shows as the months move forward; hit them up with any suggestions you may have.
“I really hope we can partner with additional sponsors to keep these shows going past this first few months,” says Moody. “People are wanting it, so I really hope I can deliver.”
To learn more about Little Alley Shows and to see a full list of performances, visit littlealleyshows.com