Parkersburg musician hosts concerts in his home
NOTE: The Shovels and Rope concert scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 4, has been canceled. Radcliff hopes to bring the duo back at a later date.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Tuesday, Parkersburg-based singer/songwriter John Radcliff welcomes maybe the biggest act yet to his 816 Quincy Hill Concert Series. The Charleston, S.C.-based Americana duo Shovels and Rope (Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst) brings its month-old record, "O' Be Joyful" -- and no doubt a few fans -- to Radcliff's house for a show that's part of a big U.S. tour.
Radcliff has been putting house shows on since 2007 as a way for him to see musicians stop in Parkersburg on their way to other towns. The gazz caught up with him to see how he does it.
Q: How organic a process has it been putting on house shows?
A: "It started with the Kevin Montgomery 50 States in 50 Days tour. I followed him on MySpace and caught on to what he was doing and that he needed a show in West Virginia.
"When I saw how it could be, I started looking for acts I wanted to see. Then acts started contacting me.
"It has just evolved over the years to where I may do about 30 percent of the first contacts and receive 70 percent. That makes me feel good about the whole process because there have been some bad nights, and these folks still suggested me to their peers."
Q: House shows are generally something you hear about teenagers doing when their parents are out of town. How much does being a musician help you with putting your shows on?
A: "I try to have everything ready for them. I know after driving all day it's nice to be welcomed and get a helping hand with all the grunt work. If they want my opinion about the mix, I can lend an ear.
"Being a fan is a hard thing to control, though. I always like the sound checks and hearing how it's going to sound. In preparation for the show, I don't have a lot of time to stand around, but when I can, it's really special to listen one-on-one before anyone gets there.
Q: What kind of crowd do these shows bring in?
A: "Most of the folks that show up are friends, and it's always nice to see them. This is the only time I see some folks, so it gives us a place and time to catch up. The new folks, I hope to spend some time with and gauge their reaction afterwards and try to convince them to come back."
Q: Many local bands don't have the experience or opportunity to play house shows. How much of an asset do you hope your concert series will be for local bands and Parkersburg itself?
A: "I would hope it is an asset. I try to get local acts to open for the house shows. Some acts will let me. Some have a plan. But when I can, it gives local artists exposure to people that love music in the area. It isn't and never will be a big crowd, but it is a place to listen and be heard. And those people won't keep it a secret if they like you.
"For Parkersburg, I think it brings a different kind of act. Some of the artists only do house shows. It's a really good mix of styles and cool that they come from all over North America and end up playing at my house."
Q: What was your response to seeing Shovels and Rope live at the Nelsonville Music Festival earlier this year and then finding out they'd be coming to your house to play?
"I thought it was a long shot to get them. I knew nothing about them before I saw them, other than they were incredible. They really were on everyone's lips after that weekend. I figured it would be too much or not their thing, but I talked with their tour manager and worked on something that both of us could live with, and here we are. I also hosted The Kernal, Mechanical River and Andrew Combs one night through talking with their tour manager. It was a double win."
Q: Are there any weird rules fans have to obey to come into your home?
A: "No weird rules. It's my home. I think everyone understands it's not a bar. It's a listening event. Just respect the people that came for the show."
Reach Harrah at firstname.lastname@example.org.