Skyview returns to the MOSH
words by Shelton Hull
Skyview’s return engagement at the Museum of Science and History comes at a critical juncture for both the band and the venue with which they are most closely associated. Rock The Moon III is their eighth show there; it takes place on Saturday night, July 22 at 7:30 pm, and it will be one of the last major events at the museum’s current location. Appropriate that it features a band that has done more to promote the MOSH brand than almost anyone else in recent years..
Skyview was founded by singer/guitarist Evan Smith and keyboardist Ryan Kirk back in 2007.
“Originally we wanted to write music about how it felt to see the world from above, as if you were flying. Kind of like a ‘big picture sound’. This is why we named our first album ‘The Sound of Flight’.” They were based in Tallahassee for eight years before moving to Jacksonville, which is where they really made their name. Bassist Stone Schaeffer joined in 2019, right as Smith began leaning into the space theme, which was a great decision for them.
It was on a random date that year where Smith visited the MOSH for the first time; he instantly took to the venue, and the planetarium’s creative potential literally leaped out at him. With the local indie scene being positively tumescent with talent, anything that can make your group stand out from the pack–visually or musically–is worth embracing.
Drummer Ethan Thurber is their newest addition, joining in 2021 after original drummer Thomas Morrison decamped for Nashville. “He’s been such a breath of fresh air,” says Smith. He also works full-time as an engineer for Lockheed Martin, whose role in our space program is well-known, and that gives him unique insight into the material. “I have to be involved in music that I think is intrinsically good, regardless of what the style is,” he says. “When I found Skyview, it really resonated with me.”
They’ve played over 150 shows over the years, rocking pretty much every venue of note in Northeast Florida, including Jack Rabbits, Rain Dogs, Nighthawks (now Archetype), Sarbez, Shantytown, Burro Bar and the soon-to-be departed 1904 Music Hall. (They’re also playing at the First Coast Music Fest on July 28, which will be 1904’s last live music event. Check with Folio for a chance to win free tickets to that.) Skyview opened for Everclear at Mavericks, and for the Wu-Tang Clan at Metropolitan Park. They’ve toured the eastern US extensively, doing shows in New York Atlanta, Tampa, Miami, Nashville, Indianapolis and Chicago.
But Skyview is best-known for their association with MOSH, which itself has been a key component of local culture for longer than any of us have been alive. Originally founded as the Jacksonville Children’s Museum in 1941, what we know today as the Museum of Science and History has been at its current location since 1969. They adopted their current name in 1988, which was the same year they added the Alexander Brest Planetarium, since renamed to the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium, which has long been one of the museum’s most popular features, and a virtual rite of passage for two generations of kids. (Led Zeppelin fans like myself may have especially fond memories of those laser-light shows.) The facility currently seats about 200, and it features a 60-foot diameter dome-shaped projection screen, JBL sound system, and a Zeiss Jena Optical mechanical planetarium star projector. At its peak, the planetarium alone was reaching over 60,000 people every year.
Rarely will you see a more perfect symbiosis of a group with a venue, to the point that both brands are now tightly enmeshed in the public eye, which has allowed both to show off fresh aspect of those brands. “We’re trying to walk through the highlights of each space-flight era in chronological order in a short play format,” says Smith. “So far we’ve covered Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions and now we’re finishing up the Shuttle era.” They’ve issued ten tracks so far, which are collected onto two EPs, which can be obtained via Spotify or their website, with more material coming any day now. The goal is to catch up to our current space era,” he continues,” and eventually combine all of the space songs into a full album, depicting, reflecting, and celebrating our greatest accomplishments in space.”
Times are not nearly so crucial for Skyview as they are for the MOSH right now. MOSH is currently slated for relocation to the Northbank, as part of the extensive development plans for that area. The announcement was made in May 2021, but ground has not yet been broken, so it remains unclear when they will actually be moving. The new facility will nearly double MOSH’s square footage from 77,000 to 133,000, but it remains unclear if the new facility will have a planetarium space built in. However, given its central place in MOSH mythology, it seems almost unthinkable that they wouldn’t. “We obviously hope they build a planetarium,” Smith says, “and if they do, I’m hoping it’s a larger planetarium, built to fit 500-750 people.”
The business of music is always a challenge, no matter what you play or how well you play it, but they’re lucky to have a unique sound and a novel approach that garners a loyal fanbase. It also helps that they’ve been doing this for quite a while, now, long enough to have seen their own instincts proven objectively correct. They might never end up rich and famous, but they’ll always have plenty of work.
Like most bands in Jacksonville, the members of Skyview are all active in running their own projects. Smith, for example, has been doing regular solo sets at The Space Bar. “It’s a rooftop venue just outside of the Kennedy Space Center,” he says. “You can see the launch pads from the venue. You better believe I’ll be doing some networking there!” Meanwhile, Schaeffer is a principal partner (with owner Rick Grice) at Endangered Wise Men Studio, which has pushed out a diverse array of material in recent years, ranging from trap-rap new music by Whole Wheat Bread to Mayor Deegan’s inauguration video. EWM is just one of several local studios that are really popping right now, with Warehouse Studios and Mix Theory Studios right up there, too. But their interests go to infinity, and beyond just music. Two members are licensed pilots, a hobby that definitely dovetails with their fascination with all things far-out.
The future is bright for Skyview, with more shows planned up and down the state. They’re hoping to take their act into an IMAX theater at some point. “Our original sound was very uplifting,” says Smith, “but it changed along with circumstances over time. It’s evolved with our life and the things that we’ve been through. Each album sort of represents the journey we’ve been on. Ultimately Skyview is the reflection of ourselves.”