Sat 10/27 @PM
Music lovers of all sorts have at one time or another dreamed about winning the lottery and booking their favorite band for an intimate concert in their living room. (Let’s just say Elvis Costello better hope he wins a Powerball drawing before I do).
For Joel Elvery and his wife Lynne Phares, that dream became a reality when they discovered the phenomenon called house concerts. Since 2011, the Ohio City couple has been hosting such events with national artists — Kevin Welch, Marah, Bottle Rockets, The War and Treaty — performing in their Victorian home.
CoolCleveland talked to Elvery about reservation-based, private party operation Mechanic Street House Concerts, which is actually hosting Arc Iris with opener Qiet October 27 at the BOP STOP at The Music Settlement.
CoolCleveland: So let’s begin with the most logical question: How does one start booking concerts out of their living room?
Joel Elvery: We used to live in Washington D.C. where we went to a couple of house concerts. We were like, “Wow, this is great.” We started in January 2011. We host mostly touring bands six to eight times a year in our house. We have an email list, that’s how people get invited to the event. We try to have the culture of people really listening and enjoying the music. So it’s more of a concert, less of a party. It’s basically about sharing bands that we love with people and trying to get bands to come to Cleveland that maybe wouldn’t come here otherwise.
CC: It sounds like Mechanic Street House Concerts is going for more of a listening room vibe.
JE: Exactly. Now, it depends on the band. We had Marah in 2017 and with Marah, you’re never going to have a listening room feel. It’s not what they’re about. They’re about a giant party, but generally it’s very much a listening room feel. We made a decision early on to just book things we love and not try to stick with a single genre. So while we’ve done a fair amount of stuff that would fall into the Americana world, we’ve also had everything from jazz to prog-pop.
CC: How much does it cost to book a band for a living room gig?
JE: The bands get paid through donations. Honestly, for the bands we’re booking, they probably earn more from playing at our house than the clubs in town, because all of the donations go to the band. They end up having a pretty good night. We have a very large house with a living room, dining room and foyer that join together. We have between 50 to 60 people. Most of our invited guests have no qualms about donating. We keep the recommended donation at $20.
CC: Let’s talk about the BOP STOP at The Music Settlement show. How did this gig come about?
JE: This is totally unique, we’ve never done this before. We’ve hosted Arc Iris twice and Qiet once. Arc Iris has been building. They’re a very theatrical band, and so it’s just kind of like this would be better in a club than in our house. And Qiet has a tremendous amount of energy. We felt these bands are better in a club, so let’s sort of go for it.
CC: Finally, does this mean Mechanic Street House Concerts is going to start booking shows all over Cleveland?
JE: No, I think it’s a one-off. We’re going to see how it goes. We kind of want to try something new, but really what we try to do is make sure the audience and the musicians have a great experience. We thought for this show it would be better for all involved at the BOP STOP, which is a great venue, but our plan is continue to have living room concerts.