Toledo Bellows offers space on Robinwood Concert House stageWritten by Colleen Kennedy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In a city where underground bands are often neglected, one area man promises them a spotlight — in his living room.
Gabriel Beam utilizes his Old West End home, located at 2564 Robinwood and dubbed the Robinwood Concert House, coupled with his nonprofit, Toledo Bellows, as methods to foster an underground music culture in Toledo.
Beam said he founded Toledo Bellows in July 2008 after discovering a void in the music scene.
“I didn’t really like much that was happening in Toledo,” Beam said. “I got tired of doing things at the bar. I started doing a lot of these things at my house because I figured I’d be a better host than a bar — to present it the right way where people would have to pay attention to it instead of being distracted by the TVs at the bar.”
What Beam created is a platform for musicians that allows attendees an intimate experience with the music.
Many of the bands play what Beam describes as “outsider” music or “contemporary avant-garde.” These musicians commonly experiment with synthesizers and homemade or manipulated instruments. Beam said many of these items are often garage sale finds that have been re-wired to sound as if they are malfunctioning — a desired outcome.
Initial shows took place at The Black Cherry or Woodchuck’s Downtown though they didn’t fit his idea of a perfect venue.
Without the financial means to rent a building, Beam said he drew inspiration from the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor and decided to transform his living room. When cleared out, the 24-by-35 foot room accommodates approximately 50 people.
On Oct. 26, 2008, Toledo Bellows hosted its premiere concert held at the Robinwood Concert House which featured musicians Simone Weibenfels and Adam Smith. To date, the venue has housed 25 shows for artists from Los Angeles to Canada — and later this spring a band from England — that Beam said would have a hard time fitting into other venues and as a result might have passed up performing in Toledo. But Beam said it’s not entirely about out-of-town acts.
“There’s always going to be somebody local playing which helps breed new people that are into outsider music,” Beam said, “So I always pepper it with some kind of local act if I can. Since then a lot of people have come out of the woodwork with their projects.”
Erik Montgomery, who performs under the alias Dr. Rhomboid Goatcabin, is one local artist who performs at the Robinwood Concert House.
“One of my favorite performances was there,” Montgomery said. “Just being able to connect with an audience who was accepting of being different was nice. It’s essentially just a living room but a lot of aural magic happens there.”
Shows often include small appetizers such as cheese, veggies and olives. Beam said wine is available but isn’t meant to become the primary focus of guests.
“It’s not a party house,” Beam said. “That’s really what I didn’t want. I wanted strangers to show up who were interested in music.”
Since there is no cover charge, Toledo Bellows accepts donations, which Beam said are used to pay the bands and cover the cost of food.
To promote events, Beam uses electronic media such as Facebook, MySpace, an e-mail list and Internet forums. As an attempt to reach out to even more potential fans, Beam created “The Void Corral,” an Internet music forum where users can interact to find out about shows.
Through Toledo Bellows, Beam said he hopes to continue to provide a “safe haven for improvisers” and has shows booked through August.
“I love to do these shows because they are so intimate,” Beam said. “I think that it’s really the way music should be experienced.”
For more about Toledo Bellows and upcoming shows, visit toledobellows.wordpress.com.
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