In early December, Austin's Jon Dee Graham played Lincoln's Zoo Bar to a moderate-sized but rapt Monday crowd. Then Graham and his touring partner / booking agent Mike June hit the road and crisscrossed Iowa, playing everywhere from Iowa City's iconic The Mill to the Depot Deli in Shenandoah, Iowa.
My visit to the Depot Deli made me think about local “DIY” concert spaces. In Omaha, Dean Dobmeier's and Gary Grobeck's moveable Sunday Roadhouse series has been presenting selected concerts with notable Americana artists since 2003. The series now takes advantage of the new Reverb Lounge that has a space suitable for listening room concerts. (See sundayroadhouse.com.) The Jerome Brich family's FolkHouse series hosts a house concert show about once a month in Omaha. FolkHouse celebrates their 15th anniversary in May 2015 with their 150th show. (See folkhouseconcerts.com.)
Lincoln's LAFTA (Lincoln Association for Traditional Arts) supports a main stage series and house concerts. (See lafta.net.) Series like these and some in out of the way locations such as Byron's in Pomeroy, Iowa, and Sehnert's Bakery & Bieroc Cafe in McCook, Nebr., have supported live acoustic music and the “listening room” concept for years. Sioux City's Vangarde Arts is a non-profit developed by music and arts fans as a performance space and a gallery for visual art.
Another recent local effort by music journalist and fan MarQ Manner booked a Wednesday night series of local artists at Omaha's Library Pub. The series concluded recently but was popular enough the Library Pub is planning a Saturday night music series with artists selected from the Wednesday bookings. (See facebook.com/LibraryPubOmaha.)
All these venues have one thing in common: musicians and music lovers joining forces for shows in sometimes unlikely venues for the sake of the music. Oftentimes a community is also built out of those attending.
A Google search brings up venues including Whispering Pines Bed & Breakfast in Nebraska City celebrating 5 years and Nebraska Outback House Concert Series in Sutherland, Nebr.
At Graham's Depot show in Shenandoah, folks had travelled from Corning and Sioux City, Iowa, for the concert, joining a room full of locals supporting the event. Owner Bill Hillman had a handwritten sign on the door to the party room that serves as the listening room noting a $10 cover, with a box for depositing money on the honor system.The sign went on to say that “we want your presence more than we want your money,” underlining Hillman's dedication to sharing the music.
“There aren't a lot of venues that really focus on listening,” FolkHouse's Jerome Brich said. “There always seems to be distractions that detract from the musical experience when you're in a crowded bar or noisy coffeehouse. At a house concert, people are quiet with 100% focus on the performers.”
So the next time you are looking to support live music, don't forget homegrown opportunities like the FolkHouse, the Sunday Roadhouse and the next Library Pub offerings.
Remember there will be weekly updates on local shows at thereader.com under the Hoodoo tab. One big show in January is Josh Hoyer & The Shadowboxers' tour launch at the Zoo Bar Friday, Jan. 23, 9 p.m. The show is their last Lincoln show for a while, as the band hits the road for a 12-city national tour that takes them to Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, Chicago and St.Louis. The band's second release, Living By the Minute (Silver Street Records), has a national release on iTunes Jan. 13, 2015. The band's self-titled debut jumped back to Number Three on the Roots Music Report's R&B Top Ten after the band's fall tour of the West and Northwest. See joshhoyerandtheshadowboxers.com.