If I could create a venue for musicians and audiences ...
I would have a generous stage, great acoustics, room for people to move around to organically find the place that best suited their needs.
Some of my long-time back-room buddies here know that as I wander through life I am constantly looking at buildings trying to picture my perfect musical venue. It would have a nice stage with four Model II's across the back, and four microphone stands with T1®s across the front. There would be a trapkit off to one side. There would be proper stage lighting, a green room for artists to prepare, great food and beverages (and sound isolation from the food preparation area).
A dance floor would be nice.
I would run it 7 nights a week and have showcase nights (not quite free-for-all open mic events) with different nights for different genres, Other nights would be full-fledged concerts, and who knows what else.
A little background
When I was just getting back into music after a near-twenty year hiatus, I got into the local music scene by hitting jam sessions. They weren't called open-mics twenty some years ago, at least not around here. Blues jams, Jazz jams, R & B jams,Rock Jams, Folk jams, and whatever else was going on. Smokey bars, dance clubs, restaurants, coffee houses (before the proliferation of cappucino machines and the stench of over-roasted coffee beans), song-circles in converted kids'-camps; I was out every chance I could until I found some people to play with regularly, I was out working on my chops and learning to play nicely with others. The venues were terrible but every now and then there was magic on the stage.
Back to "if I could create a venue"
Well I haven't found that venue yet, but for the last couple of weeks I have been working with a new business that started a cafe in the middle of a community centre. They took over some space, converted it into a commercial kitchen and started doing all the cooking for their catering business from there. They have a space beside the kitchen that they run as a cafe. It is about 20 feet wide and 75 feet long. I set up a stage area across one end with two Compacts and two microphone stands with T1®s. The stage area is about 15 feet deep (because I could afford to take as much room as I needed). One wall is all glass (tilted on an angle) facing out onto the end-zone of a curling rink. This is so Canadian it has me in stitches just thinking about it.
This little place will hold 80 people (municipal zoning). The building has just been completely renovated and has all the modern amenities. It's a little sterile in appearance but we're working on that.
Here's a picture from last week taken about 50 feet back. In this picture the Compacts were up against the back wall. It's hard to see in the photo but the performers were about 8 feet in front of the Compacts and there was 8 more feet to the front edge of the audience seating.
Okay - I'd like a bigger place, and it would be nice if it was twice as wide, and even nicer if I could set up the gear permanently, and on and and on ...
Last week we had 22 musicians crossing the stage in 15 sets in about 4 hours. There was lots of mixing and matching and impromptu collaborations. Last night (Saint Patricks Day) we had 20 musicians and 13 sets. Both nights we had stiff competition (big hockey game last week, and this week: Saint Patricks Day, and another similar event at the venue I just left to move to the new place). Somehow we drew out musicians of all levels, and we put on a show for an appreciative audience.
In a beautiful moment I noticed a couple dancing way at the back.
more coming.This message has been edited. Last edited by: ST,
The Organic Audience
I advertised this as a Showcase / Jam event (not an open-mic)
I put this note on all the tables.
Every Set is a Concert
Respecting the Audience and the Performers
The room is large enough that listeners can move up to the front, and people who want to visit and chat can do that at the back. Everyone in the listening area should be able to hear every note on stage so feel free to move around to the best place in the room for what you want to do.
If you want to join-in with someone on stage (sing-along, play-along), please wait until the performers invite you to do that. If you want to play-along with an instrument, your place is on the stage with the other performers when you are invited up.
Live in the Moment
This is a live performance so no pictures or recording please.
Here is what happened. People who came to listen came up front. If people wanted to talk, they moved back. People who came to eat and chat sat in the back and some moved forward when they were ready to listen. It was fascinating to watch.
Moving the Audience with Volume
Another interesting thing... This week I ran a little louder because last week people in the back asked me to turn up. I couldn't do it last time because there was excessive bass in the room (from two Compacts!). I solved that this week by moving the Compacts 3 feet out from the back wall. I also pushed all the furniture 3 feet (easily done because the cafe people were rearranging the tables for the show anyway.
I ran the volume a little hotter and guess what... nobody sat at the tables at the front. People came in and sat up front when I was playing the opening set, but I was playing solo and at a volume level that suited what I wanted to do early in the night. Later it was easy to observe turning up the volume pushed people back. They were still happy, just a few feet farther away.
My original plan was to put two Classic/Model I's in this space but I wanted to try a couple of weeks with the Compacts to see how that would work. They are working fine. A soon as curling season is over, the plan is to do this every Saturday night. At that point I may just park a couple of Classic/Model Is down there.
I think that the bigger L1®s will suit me better because I should be able to run at a lower stage volume, and it won't be quite so loud up front for the audience.
When we overflow this space, there is a larger room above this one. It is longer and more importantly, wider. I would probably use Model IIs in that room.
What am I running throught the Compacts
I opened solo; vocal, guitar, porchboard. I did half of the songs with an acoustic guitar with a pickup, and the rest with an electric jazz-box.
About half of the sets were duos. It was a real treat for me tonight because some of the solo acts asked me to join them on guitar and vocals.
The rest of the acts were at least two guitars, and sometimes there was a keyboard in there. I was running two vocal microphones on stands, another small diaphragm condenser for acoustic guitar (for the one fellow who will not play with a pickup). I also have two wireless Shure Beta 58As. The most I have had running through the two Compacts (with T1®s) in this venue are:
5 vocalists (3 wired, 2 wireless)
3 guitars (two acoustic, one electric)
At the last venue where I did shows like this we had a fellow come and play electric bass too.
I run the wireless microphones, one to each T1® Channel 5 and I have the noise gate set so that don't have to worry about feedback if someone forgets to turn off a microphone.
Every sound source goes through a T1®, and is only heard through one Compact.
I never wanted to be the sound guy
Tonight I heard these comments from performers
"You have made this the best sounding room in town"
"You've got the best sound system I've heard at any of these kinds of events"
"I've never heard vocals so clear, or such a great balance between the vocals and guitars"
I never wanted to be the sound guy, but to be able to put on a show like this, opening and closing the night, and in between I get to help musicians to sound their best in front of an appreciative audience of listeners; well that's not too shabby.
This show is like a concert. Nobody is here for the food or the ambiance although the food is great and it is hilarious to watch people curling and singing along on the other side of the glass. I'm ecstatic that there are more listeners than musicians and that the audience is growing as I see people bringing their friends.
While it's not my ideal venue, it is a place where the evolving culture of the community puts the music first.
Looking left from the stage before the show started. I cleaned up the stuff leaning against teh glass) before the show.
The facilities people say that if I want to do a big event during the off season, I can use the space that you can see through the glass.
HI ST. Sounds like you are having fun there.
Back to your ideal venue, I would want the dancefloor off to one side. I hate going to see a band or an entertainer when the dancers get up if front, then no one else can see. Of course a 6' high stage would solve that, but that's usually not practical.
Hi Col. Andy,
I am having fun. It's a lot or work but people are getting to know the T1®. Once I get someone set up, I leave the T1® with the vocal channel set on zEQ. I make sure that the performer knows:
Vocal is on 1
Instrument is on 2
"Use the Mute buttons before you walk away"
I use the Silent disconnect cables from audiopile and noise gates on the microphones so there are no unexpected pops or buzzes and no feedback.
No feedback - That's amazing giving the number of people who are moving on and off the stage in the course of the evening.
Back to your idea about having the dance floor off to one side. I see your point, but back in my youth I would have argued that having the dance floor in front of the band was for the entertainment value it gave .... to the band.
You are so fortunate to have this new room.
I know how you'd been struggling with the politics of the last room.
It's incredible that this new one came along at just the right time.
This place is nice in that you have the potential to use the three different spaces.
Do you have any pictures of the upstairs room?
It is motivational to see the amount of work you go to, bringing music to the public.
While I realize, it doesn't get simpler than two Compacts, it's still a lot of involvement getting everyone trained on the T1.
I can't imagine that with my new band, so we are still using their 3-tier.
I am really happy for you, and am motivated to get involved in something similar around here.
I am fortunate to have this new room. When it was clear that my show had outgrown the old place I started banging on doors and sending out emails and meeting with people talking about what I wanted to do. Then, one day, I got a message: "I hear that you're looking for a venue..."
It's too bad that I now find myself competing with the owners of my last venue. But it's good for people to have choices. And from what I hear, we've got better food. All the compliments about the sound I heard on the weekend were from people who had started the evening at the other place and then come up to my show later.
Here are some shots of the upstairs lounge. (I didn't take the pictures).
This is the main seating area. You can see about 3/4 of the length of it here.
And facing the other way there is a sliding partition that opens into an exercise/dance studio that we would use for the stage and more seating (or dance floor).
The people who run the kitchen downstairs cater events in this space, so they are used to providing food service here. They have said that if we move into this space doing food wouldn't be an issue. The space is licensed
I'm thinking that we could use the upstairs for bigger events like a quarterly showcase of the "The Best of ..." from the weekly events. We could feature four acts, that had gotten the most votes from the weekly events. I'll have to think about that.
There are a LOT of young, incredibly talented acts in the local scene. I'd like to get them in front of the L1®s with a listening audience at the weekly events, and then get them into a larger space with more time.
It might be fun to have an event in the big space (curling rink). In the off-season it is available (bigger $$$). It is 160' x 60'. The mind boggles.
Here is more detail about how I set the stage for this show.
Stage Layout for an Open Mic with 2 Compacts and 2 T1®s
--∈∞ΘΞ Please click the picture for more details ΞΘ∞∋--
Looks like a great place and I love the idea. Wish I had the energy to do something similar around here.
No pictures or recording, .... but you showed us a pic of two on stage, and the audience.???
Pictures / Recording...
Landlord took the picture on the first night to tell him "this means you, too". I didn't know he had done it 'til hours later when he showed it to me. Got permission from the performers who were cool with it. Audience... No faces.
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