Admittedly, as a middle-age woman, I’m probably not in the target demographic for the latest House Concert Series to be hosted at LowellArts.
That may be why organizer Ryne Clarke made sure to give me one final piece of advice before I attended this past Sunday’s concert with 78 Revolutions Per-Minute. It’ll be loud, he said. You might want to bring ear protection.
He was right. It was loud. As in, I’ve been to Metallica concerts and thought it was loud.
But it was also extremely cool. I say that not because I’m the type to rock out to indie bands, but because it’s something entirely new and fresh for Lowell. It offers entertainment to those who maybe aren’t into hiking or kayaking or shopping or any of the other things for which Lowell is known.
While the series might not be for everyone, Clarke and co-organizer Jerry Wenger deserve kudos for adding one more layer to the diverse offerings that make Lowell, as the Chamber of Commerce likes to say, the next place to be. You can decide for yourself by attending one of the concerts which will run throughout June and July at 6pm on Sundays at the LowellArts Gallery.
From Home Studio to Concert Stage
The House Concert Series evolved out of a project Clarke began last fall. Clarke, 19-years old and a 2017 Lowell High School graduate, had been inviting groups to come for recording sessions in his home studio. The sessions were recorded and a promotional video was provided for the bands to use in their marketing.
When the LowellArts gallery became available for the summer, Clarke and Wenger, who have previously collaborated on musical projects such as The Preservers and the Ryne Experience, had the idea to open the sessions to the public as a concert series. “It’s definitely more interesting than people might think,” Clarke says.
For about 30 minutes, the band performs about 4-5 songs on the stage with all the lights and effects you’d expect from a concert. Clarke peppers a few interview questions throughout the session, and the whole thing is broadcast live on local radio station WRWW 92.3, The Boat.
Highlighting Grand Rapids Area Bands
When Clarke started in his home studio, he was working with bands from as far away as Lansing. However, the House Concert Series at LowellArts highlights Grand Rapids-area bands. In addition to 78 Revolutions Per-Minute, other groups being featured include Elroy Meltzer, Silverstiles and Ugly Flannel.
Originally, Clarke sought out bands for the sessions but now he finds many have heard of the program and approach him to participate. Although the groups are largely punk and rock, Clarke says any genre is welcome.
For bands, the benefit is exposure and a promotional video. “There’s money on our end of it, but it’s free for the band,” Clarke says. That money is largely in terms of expenses incurred by Ryne Shyne, Clarke’s company, to produce and edit the videos. To offset those expenses, there is a $5 suggested donation for those attending the House Concert Series.
However, Clarke says he doesn’t want that put off anyone from coming to the shows. “I’d rather people, if they don’t have the money, still come out,” he says.
Insider View of Music Production
Back at the 78 Revolutions Per-Minute concert, I showed up a few minutes early and watched as Clarke and Wenger completed their final prep for the concert. The band was set up, and everyone was relaxed and chatty.
Clarke introduced the band for the radio audience, and the group began its first song. Sneaking a glance at the little girl sitting nearby – the daughter of a band member – I briefly wondered if the lyrics would be appropriate for all ages. However, that was a non-issue as the volume made it difficult to distinguish them.
During the interview questions, the band talked about hanging out with family, their other projects and a deep love of coffee. Throughout it all, a handful of people milled around with cameras, taking video and still shots of the event.
All in all, it was an intriguing look at the inner workings of how groups perform and record. While I left after the concert was over, it occurred to me that the laid-back atmosphere might provide an opportunity for aspiring artists to connect with those already working in the industry and maybe even get answers to a question or two.
Teen Entertainment, Close to Home
The concerts also seem like a perfect opportunity for teens to get out of the house on a Sunday night and hang out with friends without having to drive to Grand Rapids to do something. Of course, there is no reason older people can’t attend too, but as a mom to teens, I thought the concert seemed custom-made for the older teen/young adult set.
As for the decibel-level, “It can be a bit loud, but that’s part of the experience,” Clarke says. So be aware and be sure to send your kids with ear protection.