folksoulsignThey were newbies standing outside the old Montclair Hotel.

For 30 years, The Down Home has been hosting legendary singer songwriters and Friday, January 15th was the first time Folk Soul Revival performed at this hallowed listening room in Johnson City.

Surprisingly, a lot of people from the Tri-Cities region couldn’t tell you where this venue is located. For the record, it’s an old brownstone located on corner of Main and Market Street.

In tune with its eclectic persona, they take pride in keeping a low profile too.

Although that may seem like a marketing faux-pau, this venue continues to draw plenty of regulars each week.

It’s easy to expect the unexpected too. Sometimes there’s a performer from around the corner while another night might host a Grammy award winner dropping in to play a couple of sets to seed the room.

Daniel Davis was walking in from the freezing January dusk to tell me this was the first time he had stepped into the room. With acoustic guitar cases at the end of both hands, I was taken back by his comment and glad to be sharing this memory with this talented songwriter.

Singer/songwriter Ed Snodderly was moving chairs around the room when we stepped in the side door, just behind the stage. He’s the owner and operator and was serving double-duty as sound man this evening too.

With a stylish tweed cap, he welcomed everyone to the Down Home and made no haste to help the band to setup the stage.

downhomepicsYou can sense the music in this dark venue. There are no windows. The floor, ceiling, walls, chairs, bar and doors are all stained wood and paneling – soaked with years of acoustic music, comfort foods and the stale pleasures of draft beer. There’s no plastic, steel, plaster or anything fake or contrived. The stage is shallow, but long and an arm reach of tables arranged in a mosaic directed to the stage.

At best, the venue will host one-hundred patrons on a good night.

Dan Witt, drummer for Folk Soul Revival made a quick decision to change his regular station with the band. The stage is too shallow for a drummer to sit in the middle of the stage, so he set up at stage right facing the band.  I nested in close to his cymbals and then Daniel, Justin, DV and Brandon on stage left.

In a few moments we were performing the proverbial sound check as Daniel sang, “Me and my baby got the whole thing down…From the Hudson River down to Chinatown.” 

The doors opened at 6pm. The tickets were sold out and several people were already staking out territory with brown paper bags with wine and an appetite for conversation, food and original music.

For a few moments, I spoke to Daniel about what I appreciate about the success of this band. There are plenty of local musicians who would love to play a sold out room. Folk Soul Revival’s success is a simple two step formula.

First plan to the audience. Write songs that are easy to understand, familiar and worth singing over and over again. Their Twitter feeds are self-evident of that accomplishment. Not to mention the congregational singing that overrides almost every one of the bands original songs.

Beyond that – work it. There are plenty of talented players in the region. Amazing quite frankly. But many of those virtuosos still believe that people seek out great music. Not true anymore. There’s music everywhere on the planet. If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to be committed, deliberate and work the art. Folk Soul has a exhausting schedule this year and each time they play, there’s a consistency and expectation from both sides of the stage and that’s another reason for their success.

Walking past the bar, through a swinging door by the kitchen, the cooks were preparing food for the night. We ordered a round of draft beers, beans and rice, chicken and a pretzel before walking through the stock room to the dressing room.

There’s no much room in the back, but plenty of musicians have laid rest in preparation on the rummage store couch and a small heater was glowing orange in the corner.

Daniel and Justin picked up their guitars and began rehearsing a new song for the night. The band had never performed Allun Cormier’s song “Wrong for Loving You” – working through the chord changes and harmonies in the final moments before showtime.

Here’s a short snippet of ‘This Old Flame.’

Ed walked through the crowded room around 8.00 and welcomed the crowd to The Down Home. We followed behind him and made our way across the stage and in a few moments we were performing the first set.

As a musician, one of the great things about a “listening room” is the attention a room like this bestows upon the band.

Instead of working the room talking with friends and shouting at the bar, places like the Down Home are more like a lyric sanctuary. People who come to places like this pay attention.

Every nuance is on display too. A cough, a miscue on a note or a accidental note is on display. Despite its scrutiny though, it’s hard to find a better environment to communicate original heart felt music that moves deep in the spirt of those in attendence.

We played through an hour set of Folk Soul Revival originals and took a break. After a short conversation with the fans, we played a final set and were finished around 10.30. The congregation was warm as always and included old friends and new fans too.

Unfortunately, Ed came in as the band was breaking down the stage and mentioned the door to the Folk Soul van was open on the street.

Within a few moments, Justin Venable was obviously upset because his backpack was missing. Evidently, someone had broke into the van on the street and lifted the backup which include his iPad, glasses and his keys.

Somewhere in Johnson City, there’s a backpack with the a “Virginia is For Lovers” embroidered on the bag. If you see this one – call the Johnson City Police Department who were also on the scene this evening to cover the theft.

Nevertheless, I’m sure the band will want to pay their respect to the Down Home real soon. This room, like others around the country bring a respect on both sides of the stage for songwriters and there’s no better way to experience the best good music has to offer.