Student hosting house shows creating local music scene
Rob MacDonald wore only a skimpy dress and a sweatband, but aside from the occasional shiver or self-conscious weight-shifting jig, he didn’t seem to acknowledge the freezing temperature of his back porch as he puffed away on a cigarette.
The 23 year-old general studies major was engaged in spiritedly praising the musical talents of his partner in crime, the decidedly warmer dressed Fallon Braddy.
Drifting in and out of the house, as well as the conversation, were various twenty-somethings. The group was a rag-tag eclectic mix of fashion styles, but on the surface, it appeared to be a no different than the hundreds social gatherings that take place in college towns across the country.
But these young men just might be the architects of Couer d’ Alene’s music scene.
MacDonald’s modest one bedroom house in downtown Coeur d’Alene has become the unexpected gathering place for local musicians to perform during his monthly house shows.
“We need a scene. It’s nice playing in Spokane, but being a musician you don’t always want to have to drive all the way out to [Washington] and back,” said Ian Nelson, bassist of the Static Tones and organizer of the February 26 show.
The show saw a record attendance jammed into the small space.
With barely a cellphone in sight throughout the nine-band set, the audience stayed in rapt attention, whether that meant sitting on the floor, standing too close to strangers or dancing in place.
“Everyone sits and listens, it’s great,” said J Kane, a local folk musician. “I’m used to playing in bars and things where people just want to be entertained. Here you can really do whatever you want and people pay attention and they’re attentive and they listen and it’s wonderful.”
Kane wasn’t the only musician to appreciate the atmosphere.
“A lot of the people here are really intent on the music, it’s really a beautiful thing,” said Seattle’s Adam Android, lead singer of Adam Android and the Artificial Intelligence.
Musicians seemed to find a special aura in the home that they found lacking elsewhere.
“It’s got more of a raw feeling. When you play a normal show, like something that’s at a venue, it feels rehearsed,” said Josh Nelson, lead singer of the Static Tones, 21, general studies, Coeur d’Alene. “It’s like magic, it’s raw, pure energy.”
It all began after MacDonald attended a similar show in Spokane the night before moving into his new home.
“I just knew this [place] was meant to hold house shows the second I stepped in,” MacDonald said.
He immediately enlisted the help of Braddy, who had connections with several folk acts through his blog that happened to be passing through the area.
“Originally we just had touring bands come in and have local bands bring in the crowds that support them,” Braddy said.
Now, the line up is almost exclusively local musicians.
“Around here there’s a lot of musicians and no venue to play,” MacDonald said. “I’ll let anyone play once that’s the rule. I want people to actually start their own house shows.”
MacDonald said that he feels music is a way of uniting the community.
“I love the idea that I get to contribute to the scene,” MacDonald said. “I think it’s important for people’s voices to be heard whether that’s through music or just through talking.”
MacDonald said he’s felt lucky so far that no of the shows have gotten out of hand in spite of not always knowing the people that arrive.
“Nothing really bad has happened so far,” MacDonald said. “The problem is with the more people, the less I know whose here.”
The house is not without damage, however.
A mixture of flying limbs, instruments and the occasional head have punched holes in the walls and ceiling.
“Everyone goes nuts,” Ian Nelson said. “You can feel the floor vibrate.”
A floor that MacDonald personally reinforced recently.
But MacDonald said it’s all worth it if someone is inspired to create their own personal venue.
“I just wish people would be more active, in that sense,” MacDonald said. “The music community, that’s been essential to every community throughout history.”