We started our series with indie/emerging artists we befriended at New York’s Rockwood Musical Hall and joined a group dedicated to supporting touring musicians with house concert gigs, Concertsinyourhome.com. But after three years and show 14, we were ready to throw in the towel, as we just didn't have the audience numbers to sustain our series, and a sold out show was just 25 guests. Then, show 14, December 29, 2014, we hosted Rupert Wates for the first time. We woke up to the most miserable weather--cold drizzle, steel gray skies. We said "We're screwed. No one will come out in this." Our music family brother Ken, whom we met at the late, great Sanctuary Concerts series in Chatham, offered to use our house concert as his Meet Up group event, and we ended up with one of our most memorable shows--so many people a couple had to sit on the floor. And it’s been that way for most of our 86 shows since then.
We’re not joiners or networkers, so our social groups were small. Ken suddenly became a social butterfly and would hand out our cards wherever we went—the couple seated next to us at a restaurant, a family party, another live music venue. As we grew, so did our gourmet audience and caliber of talent. Investing in a PA system helped us attract the “next tier” talent level; we were a “real” venue! Artists’ friends would see photos from their Cozy Cabin performances and they’d want in. People would just stumble across us via our Facebook page, or their friend saw shows here and they, too, wanted to experience live music up close and personal. Like many other house concert and listening room presenters, we had a two year wait list for artists wanting to play here. I’d keep telling them, “You realize a sold out show is 25 guests, right?” One of Philadelphia’s favorite local artists, Ben Arnold, contacted us earlier this year to play Cozy Cabin; I was floored! I told him what I told everyone else, and he said “Better 25 attentive, engaged guests than 250 talkers any day.”
We built this together. Our gourmet audience has continued to support us through thick and thin, and while life has gotten in the way of some of our original family members with grandchildren, caring for aging family members, health issues, retirement, moves to other locales, new family members have continually filled their seats. For the past two years, almost every performance has had at least one first-time guest. Yesterday’s performance had two of those audience members from show 14. We still don’t have a magic formula for making every show a sold out show, but we must be doing something right.
I asked Ken, our Cozy Cabin parking lot attendant/roadie/ sound engineer/chef/all around gofer, how he felt having our 100th show behind us. He said he was totally surprised and happy how far we’ve come, but we still have a long way to go. He couldn’t believe all of the people we’ve met—artists and gourmet audience members alike. He remarked, "I certainly enjoy it. Every show brings a new surprise, new connections.” Some of my most memorable recent moments: Garland Jeffreys asking if he could take home the Chicken Cacciatore leftovers. Eric Andersen hanging out until after midnight, talking about bossa nova. Sarah Lee Guthrie, Johnny Irion, sister Cathy and their daughter and niece performing for 2-1/2 hours after their annual Thanksgiving performance at Carnegie Hall to a crammed room of 30 people. Ari Hest & Chrissi Poland performing three shows for our gourmet audience. Our now annual New Year’s Days shows. Simply the fact that our savvy, adventurous audience members trust us to bring them quality music and show up even if they never heard of the artist.
Longevity isn’t in my DNA. My longest length of employment at one job is five years, I’ve managed to stay married 37 years; if you know me, then you know how monumental that milestone is. So presenting 100 shows and helping to support the livelihoods of so many insanely talented artists is a pretty big deal for me. Friends have said “Here’s to the next 100.” I’ll settle for the next 25.
Thank you, everyone. Together we’ve made something very, very special.