How does your “scene” show off songwriters?

In a production-filled music world where songwriters playing a live show stripped-down and acoustic is not hip and fashionable, I’m always amazed to discover how different communities manage to share the work of singer-songwriters in the most beautiful, straightforward and artistically-minded way.

Here’s one of my favorite examples: In the small but beautiful town of Saugerties, New York, exists a wonderful monthly show called the John Street Jam. It’s run by a music-loving couple, Steve and Terri Massardo, who present 8 songwriters in two round-robin rounds of four performers each. The four songwriters sit in a circle in the middle of the room, which is just a chapel space, and the audience sits in a circle around the performers so they’re right up close to the action. The “stage” is set up like a cozy living room, with a big rug and actual lamps. It only costs $5 for the evening. (Check out the above photo — I’m in the burgundy-colored top sitting in the performer circle — neat, huh?)

What’s terrific is that for the performers, it’s a guaranteed friendly audience that has numbered up to 100 in the few times I’ve been a part of it. For the audience, it’s an enjoyable evening with a variety of top-notch talent in different songwriting styles, from folk to blues to rock — so if you don’t like one performer, there will probably be another you love.

In addition, Steve and Terri always host a dinner for the performers before the show — and I’ve met a wide variety of local and touring performers thanks to those camaraderie-filled meals.

Steve tells me he gets an amazing, almost overwhelming array of songwriters who want to play at the John Street Jam — which is a little sad since that means there aren’t a lot of opportunities like it.

However, I know there are a lot of great singer-songwriter venues and opportunities out there — please share if there’s a great one or a unique presentation that you know about!

Cheers ~ Sharon

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  • Jim Colbert

    Well, I used to run Bellefonte Unplugged, which brought in regional touring singer songwriters (such as Joe Crookston, Jenny Goodspeed, Marc Douglas Berardo, Jud Caswell) in for a workshop or song circle followed by a performance. Everyone had a chance to share a song, and the featured artist basically did an hour long concert afterwards. The elimination of local grant funding meant the last two of these came out of my own pocket, though, and I just couldn’t sustain that, especially given light interest at best. It’s odd, central PA singer songwriters are a fickle bunch; perhaps in part because of the transient nature of the Penn State community. It’s an odd contrast to how thriving snd supportive the bluegrass, old timey and Irish sessions in the area are, and frankly, somewhat depressing.

  • Kerri

    i live in dallas-  there’s a sweet coffee shop/acoustic music venu downtown in an old, renovated SEARS building.  monday nights they have a “songwriters in the round”- i’ve started hosting and booking it.  it’s 3-4 artists each sharing 3 songs the first set/hour, and then another 3 for the second hour.  we try to encourage the songwriters to give a little “behind the music” about their songs.  anyway, it’s a great series that i love getting to be a part of.

  • Sharon Goldman

    Kerri, that sounds totally awesome! 🙂

  • the scene, knock back a cold one (beer or wine)…. see right there, which scene is it?

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