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JJ’s Junction Q&A

Current venue operators Kat Sawyer and Rose Kenney share their story

Rose Kenney and Kat Sawyer, the current operators of JJ’s Junction, pose in their living room in Bellingham, Wash., on July 18, 2023, lit by a stage light with an orange gel, given to them by Rose’s uncle, a former DJ. Kat explained all of their equipment is either provided by bands or handed down to the two by relatives and friends. // Photo by Carlee Schram

When did JJ’s Junction start doing house shows?

Kat: I believe 2017 – we have a picture from one of the first shows on our page. At the point when they had actually started, I didn’t know any of the people in charge. I only knew a friend of a friend, basically.

Did you live here at that time?

Kat: No, but I lived in town.

Rose: Both of us moved here in 2020, but Kat knows the guy who was running the place at the time, and he had inherited it from whoever started the thing like five years ago. 

Kat: Dan Lee is his name, he moved in I think in 2017. They didn’t start doing shows until 2018, and then they did it for a year then they passed it off to my friend Matt, who knew a ton of people and got a bunch of people moving in here and stuff like that. He continued the shows and kind of made them a big deal; before that it was a little venue and he would like, start putting posters out everywhere around town and stuff like that, and he’s just like a naturally, like, outgoing guy so he made tons of connections and set a bunch of stuff up.

Rose: He’s the guy who kind of put it on the map.

Kat: I mean, it’s been pretty busy this last year especially. … I think we’re both very introverted people, so us doing shows on our own has been kind of hard on us a little bit, just draining, especially considering all of the other extenuating circumstances because I’m also trying to go to school and stuff like that. But yeah, it’s been a real thing, a thing and a half. It feels very strange to think about but we’ve managed to put on apparently 50% more shows this year than the last two years combined.

Is it just you two who live here right now?

Kat: Yeah, just us two. It hasn’t been that way except for this year. Every other year, there’s been a ton of people. Two years ago, or at least three, there were seven people living here. 

Rose: We had more people here, but they moved out a few months ago, and then immediately after that our landlord canceled the renewal of the lease and so we definitely couldn’t find anyone to help with the fact that we didn’t have roommates, because no one’s going to move in here for three months.

Kat: Our landlord sealed the deal by canceling the renewal offer. It’s been absolute hell trying to find a place.

How do you find your bands?

Rose: They find us at this point.

Kat: Yeah, they mostly find us.

Rose: We don’t really need to find bands and we don’t even really need promotion at this point either.

Kat: In fact, at the beginning of this year, we kind of had to tell bands to stop promoting because it was a lot. 

What difficulties have you had being a house show venue? I know about noise complaints, the broken sink and misuse of the bathroom. Can you tell me a bit more about that or other difficulties you’ve faced?

Rose: I guess, you know, the obvious problems that will happen if you get 100 drunk college kids in your house at once, once a week.

Kat: This makes me feel really bad, but I have occasionally heard from people that there have been like, skeevy dudes hanging out but I never hear about it in time, like, it’s always weeks after the fact, and I feel so bad. It’s really tough getting enough people, like, strategically stationed around and like looking at everything all at once. Other issues would be just like general wear and tear on the house. A few years ago, the floor was not worn down like it is now. 

Rose: There’s also just like a bald spot in [our stained hardwood floors].

Kat: The walls get run into a bunch and get marked up and stuff like that.

When, why and how did you decide to shut down for the foreseeable future in August?

Kat: We have been trying pretty much the entire year up until, you know, it started being pointless to get people interested in possibly taking up the lease and doing the shows and stuff like that. We haven’t been able to find people interested in doing it here. We thought about rebranding, you know, ‘We’re the same people but in a new place,’ but we have not been able to find a place, so we’ve just had to put the show situation on hold. 

Rose: We have to get out of here this month.

Kat: 12 days I think. 

What advice would you give to other venues?

Kat: Don’t be afraid of other people. Bands will want to play at your place if you are offering it to them and they will want to talk to you. Just like the attendees, 95% of them are just the nicest, awesomest people, and the other 5%, they’re alright.

Rose: Usually.

Kat: So, yeah, I would say don’t be afraid or at least don’t let your fear of imposing on other people get in the way of, like, networking or scheduling with people and always make sure that you have everything planned out, like, a month or two in advance.

Rose: Mhm.

Kat: Don’t do it alone, make sure you have friends who are there to help you. And don’t be afraid to make friends. Don’t get too caught up in it, remember you are also just a person with a house and these are just people with some instruments and the crowd are people who want to have a good time. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Kat: If you think you can, do it. Bellingham needs more venues.

Rose: Bellingham has more room for venues. The more venues there are, the more people go to shows, the more people are inspired to form bands.

Carlee Schram

Carlee Schram (she/her) is a city reporter for The Front double majoring in visual journalism and Spanish with a minor in honors interdisciplinary studies. She is a life-long Whatcom County resident who enjoys local music, photography and lava lamps.

You can contact her at

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