Sat 1/12 Mechanic Street House Concert
Live Nation eat your heart out.
House concerts, organized the way Lynn Phares & Joel Elvery do it, are now a viable opportunity for emerging indie bands to reach new audiences, reduce costs, sell merch and earn cash. For bands, it’s almost a no-brainer: No pay to play, no beer soaked microphones, no snotty attitudes, no rude crowds. No asshole promoter stiffing you on your take. No nasty dressing rooms and sticky stages. Instead, audiences actually listen to your music. They buy your merch. Touring bands usually shack up in Lynn & Joel’s lovely home after the performance. Hell, they probably get a nice breakfast in the morning.
For audiences, the intimate concerts in Lynn & Joel’s front room & dining room of their Ohio City century home might be the absolute best way to experience acoustic and semi-amplified music. It certainly feels like VIP treatment. Music aficionados brought friends, then met folks at the show. They mingled before the downbeat and during intermission, and chatted up the musicians afterwards. Everyone was ecstatic to be so close to the music, performed at reasonable levels, respectful of neighbors and showcasing real musicianship.
For the moribund music industry, these new models of touring, performing, networking with audiences and generating income are essential. Innovation has been stifled, and consolidation and mass production has sucked the life out of touring, live playing and audience development. Costs are painfully high, with promoters and corporate venues vacuuming all the profits. House concerts offer real options, driven by passionate hosts interested in supporting their favorite musicians and bands, rather than taking advantage of them.
For Lynn (above) & Joel, they get to hear bands they dig and feel a part of helping them be successful, introducing them to new fans and to the hotspots of Cleveland’s near West side. They assuage the guilt of their huge home, four times as large and half as expensive as their previous home in D.C. They are doing their part and showcasing rising talent. Bands go on to successful careers and Lynn & Joel can know they contributed to that success. Clevelanders thank them for their impresario ways. People are treated nice and everyone sleeps well.
And the performance? On Sat 1/12/13, when Akron’s Shivering Timbers and Cleveland’s Tom Evanchuck (left in top photo) performed at Lynn & Joel’s Mechanic Street House Concert, named for an early name for their street, technical issues unexpectedly disabled their PA. So they improvised and ran their two vocal mics through Lynn & Joel’s miniature Bose home stereo unit, and kept the drums and amps down. And the results were simply revelatory. Shivering Timbers’ singer and upright bassist Sarah Benn got things started off with a strapless banjo balanced on her knee, supported by a toolbox. “All good nights start strapless with a toolbox,” she deadpanned. She forgets the lyrics and is called out by husband Jayson on guitar. Just for that, he may be sleeping on the couch tonight. Yes, in Lynn & Joel’s house. Audience is huddled on the ornate 100-year-old stairway, sitting on any bench or chair available, and lining the dining room shoulder to shoulder, now that the massive dining table has been moved to become the merch display. Almost everyone is smiling.
Host Joel speaks before and at intermission, asking someone in the audience to please turn off the lights to get the show going. Tom Evanchuck senses the mood and decides against using the jury-rigged Bose mic rig or an amp for his acoustic guitar. His strong, low voice easily resounds throughout the entire first floor of the Mechanic Street House. High ceilings and wood trim create a near-perfect listening environment for live acoustic music. Listeners spontaneously respond, clapping, tapping, smiling. Words are exchanged, but mostly a respectful quiet pervades the home. “All this banter is because I don’t know what to play.” Set lists are abandoned, Vernor’s Ginger Ale is consumed, “I’ve got to drive my mother home later,” Evanchuck explains. Audience member Bob drove up from Lancaster, Ohio, so everyone sang him “Happy Birthday.” For the encore, Shivering Timbers joined Evanchuck on an unrehearsed “Jackson,” the song made famous by June Carter & Johnny Cash. Tom E. & Sarah B. shared the mic. The song never sounded looser. We bought a t-shirt, some vinyl and a couple CDs, even though I only listen to records these days. It was a token of appreciation, a souvenir of one unforgettable evening.
House Concert guidelines: $15 suggested donation, 100% of which goes to the artists. Invitation only. Subscribe to the mailing list on their site to receive an invitation. RSVP & you’ll get an email with instructions & directions. Non-smoking. Finger food is provided. BYOB to share. Expect two 40-minute sets and an intermission. Expect to be sitting on a bench or dining room chair. Expect to meet people and actually talk with them. Genres? Americana, roots, indie.
Next to take to the living room: Miss Tess & The Talkbacks (jazz, jump blues, rockabilly) on Sun 2/10; Kevin Gordon (“indie swamp”) on Sat 4/13, more to be announced, about 6 per year.
review by Thomas Mulready