By: Jenna Marie
Sit back and relax on the eclectic couches and soak in the smell of the wooden boards that adorn the stage’s back wall. Casual conversations and warm greetings increase as people trickle in at Minneapolis’ best new “listening room”.
This is The Warming House.
Bikes are welcome here. The conjoining space is, after all, the Farmstead Bike Shop, owned and operated by Greg Neis, a co-Founder of The Warming House. Co-Founder Brianna Lane manages all bookings and coordination at the venue, while Co-Founder John Louis oversees the venue’s operations.
As business partners and good friends, it is clear the three let friendship trump seriousness and heavy logistics. The Warming House operates with playful experimentation, backed by warmth, kindness and lots of laughter.
On this particular night, I make it to The Warming House just shy of 8 p.m. and am thankful that a few tickets still remain. Louis is running the show tonight and informs me that the cover charge is a mere $10 for the two acts.
Though there are no tables set, upstairs it feels like gathering in anticipation for a Thanksgiving meal, but the toasts are made with cans of La Croix and guests don plaid, hipster hats and boots.
Tickets and refreshments are sold in the lounge. I arrive as they begin ushering people to the basement venue space, which opens up just before the music starts. I make my way down the creaky stairs and choose a seat the right of the stage. The listening room sings simplicity. A pair of industrial spotlights and strings of cafe lights illuminate the stage.
Louis takes the stage first and begins the show with a warm welcome to those who had made it out on the comfortable, breezy Friday night in mid-March.
“Our mission is to take in musicians wherever they’re at in a space that’s really meant for people really hearing the music,” he said. “Minneapolis has never really had a listening room for audiences south of 400. We’re here to be that space.”
The Warming House is a registered nonprofit reliant on memberships and grants. The venue provides a unique offering to up-and coming musicians, both near and far, as the lion’s share of ticket proceeds go directly to the musician. And their mission is to offer an astounding 150 shows a year and 150 community events a year – like songwriter’s sessions, workshops and more.
The first act takes the stage: Gabriel at the microphone and Miles, on guitar. They start with a soulful song called “Green Venicin”, which offers a poetic, lyrical representation of the what the lyricist Gabriel said were “thoughts that keep [him] up at night”.
“The truth keeps me awake
purpose keeps me awake
spades keep me awake
so alone, so alone
so alone, so alone,
keeps me awake.”
“These songs,” Gabriel prefaced, between sets “…they’re sad. They’re moody. But we need sad songs sometimes, right? They make you think.”
Over and over again, his songs bring poetry and music together in beautiful formation.
“We’re close enough to climb
we’re close enough to fly
we’re close enough, oh the silence
oh the static, inside of you.”
“I have a lot of songs about the moon,” Gabriel said. “…My anger is calm and drives me and gives me energy. It’s the sun. It’s my sun.” And later, addressing the crowd after their final song, Gabriel continues. “[Music] is therapy for me.”
The venue is an escape for any souls longing to enjoy music in a contemplative environment, away from crowded and noisy bars. When each new musician takes the stage at The Warming House, the lights go down and the crowd quiets.
And it becomes just about the crowd and the music.
“The Nunnery” (Rachel), takes the stage next after a short intermission. With no personal introduction, she quietly seats herself on the stage floor, blending in amidst the stage rug, her looping device, large hand drum and mic.
At first impression she is a quiet girl, with large, grey-framed glasses that give new shape to her face. But as she quietly begins her set, we know immediately to make a transition. To listen. To lean in. To show the world some kindness and love.
It’s worth noting that she brought in cookies and put them with her items on her merchandise table before her set began. She’s the kind of person it would be hard not to like. And in less than a minute, it seems, into her first song, we’re all friends, seated together, tuning in. Opening our gift.
The Warming House is located on Bryant Ave S. in Minneapolis.
Jenna Marie is an independent music marketing and promotions consultant for new and up-and-coming musicians in Minnesota with over 6 years of marketing experience and music industry insight. Thoughts written here are her own. Need tips on building your brand or help with promoting your music? Contact Jenna Marie at firstname.lastname@example.org.