While Victoria is without its biggest annual concert festivals this year, a new house concert series is finding its niche on the smaller side of things.
The Victoria Listening Room hosted a sold-out show for former punk rocker turned singer-songwriter Jon Dee Graham on Friday night. The ex-Skunks band member, who once opened for the Clash and the Ramones, played to an intimate crowd in the organizer’s South Oak Bay home.
It’s not underground, but it is up close, it’s personal and it is underrated, said Brett Leach, who runs the Victoria Listening Room with his wife Kristina.
“Graham kept saying, ‘It was amazing, a special audience and experience,’” Brett Leach said.
The Victoria Listening Room is already sold out for its next show, this Friday night, featuring singer songwriter Heather Maloney on Friday, Aug. 16.
Like Graham, Maloney is visiting from the U.S. and wouldn’t have played here if not for the Listening Room model, Leach said.
The Victoria Listening Room is an email-based series of shows held as private events. To get tickets, simply join the Victoria Listening Room mailing list (email@example.com.).
It’s modelled after a similar house concert series in Seattle where there are thousands on the mail list but the shows are kept to 60 people in a small venue. As a result, they sell out fast.
“On that Seattle email list you have about a half an hour to get tickets,” said Leach, who moved here with Kristina five years ago. “We aren’t at that level yet but we’ve sold out a lot of our shows.”
The couple started Victoria Listening Room because they were missing the Seattle music scene, in particular, the intimate house concerts.
The venues are private, sometimes at their house, sometimes a local hall.
The musicians like it, Leach said, because the business model is there is 100 per cent to support the artist.
Anything to make the trip worthwhile for artists who otherwise have a hard time turning a profit by ferrying into Victoria.
“There’s a stat out there that people should know,” Leach said. “The profit from one CD sale for a musician at a concert is worth hundreds, sometimes thousands of hours of streaming on Spotify.”
Jon Dee Graham is the Listening Room’s fifth concert and Maloney will be number six. Maloney played to two sold-out shows at the Seattle House Concert last year.
“We’re still finding our lane apart from the other shows in town,” Leach said. “There are lots of shows here, but there is room for more.”
The events are laid back. You can usually bring food and something to drink.
Graham insisted on showing up despite a recent heart attack, and brought his Americana acoustic sound. The former punk holds a weekly gig in Austin at the Continental Club when he’s there.
“Our main intention is to bring in solo artists with a focus on American folk,” Leach said. “We really don’t make any money for these events,” Leach said. “It’s a labour of love.”
To get on the list email firstname.lastname@example.org.
After Maloney, the next event is Sept. 8 with Willy Porter who plays a custom nine-string guitar and has opened for acts such as Tori Amos, Rickie Lee Jones and The Cranberries, and has toured with Sting, Paul Simon, Jeff Beck and Jethro Tull.
Previous shows featured Antje Duvekot, Guy Davis, Gurf Morlix and Decades After Paris.