By George Halas
With each keystroke, The Inquisition feels gratitude that its clear and noble mission has generated a cadre of regular readers. But, with devotion comes expectation and, with excellence delivered so consistently, excitement diminishes and boredom raises its ugly head. Another fabulous column about fabulous musicians who are also fabulous people playing fabulous music at fabulous venues with fabulous drink prices….and The Inquisition can hear the voice of our good friend, Juggy, yammering “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…”It leads to legitimate inquiry: is it even possible for The Inquisition to be creative, innovative, change it up? Exceed expectations? Raise the bar even higher?
Workers, gird your grid for a biggie.
If all the above-mentioned fabulousness just sounds like too much effort, perhaps it can be even easier…
It’s called a “house concert.”
Instead of struggling to find the right combination of artist and venue, bring your favorite artist(s) to your favorite venue – living room, deck, basement, tent, gazebo….
Parking has never been easier.
“It’s nice to have a house show,” said Jean Detjen, resident despot of Queen Jean’s Music Castle. “The shows start earlier, people are there to listen to the music, not to just get drunk and the artists are thrilled that people are paying attention.”
“It’s a way to support music and musicians in my own way as well as uniting musicians with their fans,” she added. “It’s not a money thing, it’s a passion thing. I am a promoter and advocate of the arts.”
“My greatest experiences with music tend to be those cozy, intimate settings, whether it be an intimate little bar, like Fox River House here in Appleton, or somebody’s living room doing a house show,” she continued. “These are the kinds of experiences where you feel like you get to know the person; when people show their vulnerability through music, it connects you with other people that are sharing that experience alongside you.”
Detjen solicits contributions, but all the money goes to the artists.
By day, Detjen wants your blood––she is the Marketing & Communications Manager for The Community Blood Center, Inc. But anyone even casually associated with The Mile of Music in Appleton will confirm that she has been tireless and very effective in promoting and building the festival. Part of her motivation to host house concerts emanated from conversations with MoM artists. She also draws inspiration from Kiki Schueler of Madison.
In a residential area just off East Washington Avenue, Kiki’s House of Righteous Music has become one of the city’s go-to places for intimate concerts of touring musicians.
Despite a name that sounds as if it should have a bright marquee, the venue is just the basement of Schueler’s small post-war home. A full house is 50-60 people who heard about the show from an email, a Facebook post or word-of-mouth. Schueler doesn’t know them all, and that’s just fine with her.
“People think it’s weird having a lot of people in my house that I don’t know,” Schueler said. “But I say, ‘Well, they’ve got to be cool, they like the same music I do.’”
Since 2005, Schueler has hosted 130 concerts in her basement. She makes no money at it–– concertgoers are asked to pay a suggested donation that goes straight to the musicians. Through word of mouth among musicians she knows or by checking tour schedules of her favorite bands, she might catch someone looking for a gig on a night off.
“I’ll do a show any night of the week, except I try not to do them on Wednesdays because that’s my volleyball night,” she said.
She got started when a musician friend of hers, Tim Easton, said he was looking for a gig on a night off between Chicago and Minneapolis.
“He sent out an email blast that said, ‘Anybody have any ideas?’ and I said, ‘Well, you could play at my house,’” Schueler said. “He said, ‘I was hoping you’d say that.’”
Two years later, the label manager at Bloodshot Records in Chicago asked her if she wanted to host a CD release party for the Silos, a group once called “America’s Best New Band” by Rolling Stone.
“That was a crazy show,” she said. “So many people showed up and I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m going to do this all the time now.’”
For both Detjen and Schueler, some of the artists will ask for an appearance fee, but most will do it for a chance to get some exposure and sell some CD’s.
Schueler doesn’t make a cent with the concerts, but she doesn’t care. What she gets is the chance to live the dream of any avid music fan, over and over again.
“I get to hear my favorite bands play in my house and sometimes they become my friends,” she said. “What else would I want?”
Detjen’s first house gig featured Christopher Gold and Nathan Dengel.
“I wanted to host a house concert since being inspired by living room shows organized by my friend, Todd Van Hammond. My first go at hosting a show of my own was with Christopher and Nathan, which was a spontaneous response to a social media reach-out with artist openings,” she said. “After testing the waters with that initial show and seeing that the sound was good and the attendee response very positive, I was enthusiastic about hosting more intimate concerts in my home.”
“My good friend, Adria Ramos, suggested an all-female theme which drew me in and inspired the first ‘Goddess Shakedown.’ I would have been happy with just a couple interested women performers, but the response was more positive than I had hoped and I was lucky enough to book five singer-songwriters for the kick-off show.”
“Jean’s taken me to a number of shows and I knew she was starting to do them, so I suggested an all-female show to make sure she’d invite me,” Ramos laughed. “It was female singer-songwriters by design based on just knowing Jean and the kinds of music that she likes to listen to and bringing friends of mine who are some of my favorite people to listen to.”
Ramos was joined by Jessica Norman, Ida Jo, Susan Howe and Stephanie Alix Tschesch.
“It was a wonderful night,” Ramos said. “I like, intimate, raw venues. It is an interesting way to play for people.”
“It’s all about making connections––with your band mates, the music––and ultimately, the audience,” she continued. “This provides an instant connection. There’s not even a mic between you and the audience.”
“It’s also a great venue,” she added, “if your music tells a story or if it’s understated and doesn’t work in a noisy bar.”
While Detjen does not see herself as getting immersed like Schueler, she would like to build a network of people interested in hosting shows and artists interested in playing.
“A series is envisioned, as many voices wish to be heard, male and female alike,” she said. “It would be smart to draw on the Madison vibe and artists to give them an additional opportunity to showcase their music in an intimate setting.”
“It’s about hospitality and community.”
The Inquisition continues to think about acquiring a living room…