And now if you’ll indulge me, a bit of reminiscing …
About two years ago, my old friend John and I started emailing about his next tour date in Memphis. He was trying to figure out a venue for his particular brand of post-Garfunkel eyebrow rock, and since just about the only place in town that would cater to such a thing was already booked, I wrote to him, “Why don’t I just throw you a house show?”
And that was how it started.
In June 2014, I had about 25 people, most armed with their own lawn chairs, gathered in the backyard of my new-to-me rental house. My life was still settling down after a major upheaval and even putting together the guest list had been tricky. The bugs outnumbered us 200-to-1. We didn’t have audio equipment and the only lighting was from the motion detector over the back door; if everyone stood still too long, John lost his spotlight.
But it was perfect. I loved every minute, from the first time I heard my Memphis friends applaud my Minnesota high school buddy to the finale of “All These Good Goodbyes,” a song that had been my constant companion for the preceding six months. And by all outside accounts, the other guests were just as happy.
That night reminded me of what I love about seeing live music. After years of decreasing patience with crowd chatter, phone glow, and selfie breaks, I’d all but stopped paying money to see musicians play. Which broke my heart, because as a former booking agent, I knew that was about the only revenue stream most acts have available. I still considered myself a fan above anything else, and nothing made me happier than truly making a connection with songs and their creators. After John’s show I started to think, hey, looks like I’m not the only one.
And so, five months later, when David Wilcox was canceling a Memphis appearance, I wrote his manager and suggested that I put together a private show. Amazingly, he said yes, and I set to work creating the illusion that I knew what I was doing, creating a website using a name I’d been saving for my imaginary WEVL show: Folk All Y’all. Thanks to a very accommodating beau and endless help from Jimbo at Memphis House Concerts, we spent two frantic weeks promoting the show and then ended up having to turn people away, since we could only squeeze 80 people into an East Memphis living/dining room. It was a dream come true.
Six months later, we did it again. (And if you didn’t see the deeply personal finale … well, do.)
By then, I had the bug. I realized this little venture might be able to work for more than my oldest friends and long-time musical idols. And that’s really when Folk All Y’all, as a planned series, began. The first show of this new era, and of the 2015-2016 season, was John Moreland. When he played my dining room, his mom was selling merch on the sideboard. Eight months later, he was on The Late Show.
That fall I welcomed (and finally got to meet) Rebecca Loebe, who thanks to mutual friends I’d been listening to long before her brief but memorable tenure on The Voice, and then had Bostonian teenage phenom Hayley Reardon in for her first Memphis show since relocating to Tennessee. David Wilcox graciously joined us yet again, bringing along Justin Farren for our first ever co-bill. And then our first local, Mark E. Stuart, sidled in for a post-holiday-hangover show, effortlessly crushing my belief that no one would donate $20 to someone they could see elsewhere in town for no cover.
Our first duo, Freddy & Francine, came through in February, knocking our collective socks off. Then Bobby Bare Jr. popped over from Nashville in April for a special benefit show that raised money for Manos de Madres. I had a little shuffle of plans for May and ended up bringing in John Paul Keith a little earlier than expected, but definitely none too soon.
Damn. What a lineup. I’m lucky as hell that they all showed up.
It’s been quite a ride, y’all. I can’t say thank you enough to everyone who has come to a show, told a friend, or donated to the cause. We have a really nice PA now, and chairs, and fancy remote-control LED lights – all thanks to people who believe in what we’re doing. I’ll admit that it’s great to get positive feedback from guests, but I hope y’all also realize how much you’re benefiting the artists as well. And not just financially, although you’ve been crazy generous. Nearly everyone who has played for us has said something along the lines of, “I really needed that.” Performing for a room full of attentive, appreciative people can really make the whole venture worthwhile. You’re not just helping musicians make a living. You’re helping them make a life.
And you’ve helped me, too. Doing these shows is a personal passion, and you allow me fulfill it. I’ve gone through a lot of change in the last two years, and Folk All Y’all has inspired me throughout. Thank you all for that.
So now instead of trying to dodge Shell shows for the summer, I’m taking an intentional break. I’m going to use the next two months to regroup and look ahead at what I can offer in 2016-17.
I can tell you already that the view is pretty great.
We’d like to offer one last thanks to Concero Resources for co-hosting the 2015-2016 season. If you would like to throw something into the pot to help with expenses for next year, that button to the left will do the trick. Anything is appreciated. If you’re interested in official co-host status, look over here.