Catch one last living-room concertâ"until next year
by Jack Rentfro
Some of us donâ’t even want people we love in our houses. Bryan and Wanda Smith are inviting as many strangers as they can fit into their house over Saturday night for brews and tunes.
Bryan says itâ’s OK: â“Itâ’s all people who come for the music.â”
The appearance this weekend by award-winning indie singer-songwriter Tommy Womack and instrumentalist Will Kimbrough concludes the second season of the Pine Ridge House Concert series that the Smiths have hosted out of their home. The concerts have featured both local and national acts in the Smithsâ’ living room; the couple provide the space, a room for traveling artists, and refreshments for the audience. The audience pays a cover that goes directly to the artist.
How Bryan, an environmental geologist, and Wanda, an insurance executiveâ"neither of whom is from the areaâ"landed in a big beautiful house in the farmland north of Clinton is too complex to relate here. Letâ’s just say that when they were house-shopping during their relocation, they wanted a place big enough to accommodate their love of entertaining. They got that with their expansive, Cape Cod-style home in a lovely pastoral setting.
The appearance by Womack, formerly of the band Government Cheese, and Kimbrough nicely bookends the series. Womack was the original Pine Ridge performer; the Smiths got the whole idea for hosting shows after catching Womack perform at the home of his former manager, ex-Nashville booking agent (and present Time Warp Tea Room booking manager) Kim Webber and housemate Lynn Fuson. For that first show, the Smiths contacted Womack about coming to their house while he was in the area for last yearâ’s Mucklewain festival. The dividend for that logistical piggyback was a huge turnout, which encouraged the couple to persist with the quixotic venture.
â“Iâ’ve always been passionate about music and held a great deal of contempt for under-talented pretenders in the music biz mainstream. The idea of promoting off-the-beaten-path artists that I really love was hard to resist,â” Smith explains.
Pine Ridge, so named for the areaâ’s dominant geologic feature, was a relatively new experience for veteran performer/writer Marshall Chapman, who drove from her home in Nashville in September to play in the Smithâ’s living room.
â“I was skeptical until I found out Dave Olney, Keith Sykes, and Will Kimbrough had played there. Keith assured me it would be great, and it was. Itâ’s like an adventure,â” Chapman says. â“You drive up to someoneâ’s house whom youâ’ve never met before. They feed you, put you up, handle advertising, man your merch table, provide soundâ"sometimes!â"then hand you a wad of cash and send you on your way. I was concerned about playing with no sound [at the Smithâ’s], but, I found it a pure experience. Having no sound seems to remove all barriers between performer and audience. It was like we were one living, breathing thing.
â“It is kind of weird that there was a bank of professional lights, yet no sound. That was definitely a first. But thatâ’s the charm of these things. You just never know what youâ’ll encounter. Iâ’ve only played a few of these house concerts, but so far, the people that attend them seem highly respectful and intelligent. Also, I found it interesting that my hosts at Pine Ridge were Bryan, from Pittsburgh; and Wanda, from the state of Washington via Atlanta. I donâ’t know what I was expecting. An orange â‘Go Volsâ’ flag hanging off the front porch with sleeping coon dogs underneath? I mean, Clinton isnâ’t Atlanta, but again, therein lies the charm.â”
Other artists this season include Mic Harrison, backed by the High Score; Rod Picott and Amanda Shires; Jay Clark; Stephen Simmons; R.B. Morris and Hector Qirko; and Malcolm Holcombe.
Picott and Shires played â“an amazing concert to an audience of 12,â” Smith says. â“I felt mighty low. But Rod told me how much he and Amanda appreciated the opportunity and our hospitality. He convinced me that the size of the audience didnâ’t matter and that what we were doing meant a great deal to him and other independent artists, and that we should keep hosting the concerts.â”
Low turnout is a recurring fear for the Smiths, especially considering that donations collected at the door are the only pay the artist receives. But the closest thing to a real disaster was a frozen, busted water pipe the day of Harrisonâ’s show. The broken pipe wasnâ’t fixed by show time and a bucket brigade was formed to keep the toilets operating for 30 guests. Ups and downs aside, though, the Smiths are lining up a roster for shows in 2008.
Who: Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough
When: Sat., Oct. 27, at 7 p.m.
Where: Pine Ridge House Concert Series in Clinton (call 207-2207 or e-mail email@example.com for directions and reservations)
How Much: $20
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