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Exploring St. Louis house shows and their appeal beyond the stage

Tom Byrne Trio playing at Kinda Blue Club.
Aaron Doerr
Tom Byrne Trio playing at Kinda Blue Club

Formative moments in a musician's career often happen in a garage. Middle school garage bands graduate from playing to their friends in driveways to playing to innocent bystanders at dive bars. But even when those budding artists move on to real venues, networks of musicians continue to find themselves on living room stages to fill the gaps between club shows and traditional stages.

This scene is alive and well in St. Louis. A wide assortment of bands, trios and DJs today continue to depend on unconventional stages, at block parties, party houses and historic mansions.

Great music can fill even a small space — or a mansion. On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Joe Mancuso, a jazz musician and baritone, described holding shows at the Judson House, a St. Louis mansion that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“In the colder months we have indoor shows, and it's in the living room; 40 to 50 people was the comfortable capacity,” said Mancuso, who serves as Judson Hosue’s master booking agent. He added: “We've had more. We've had 100-plus people out in the courtyard.”

On the other end of town, a rotating group of young St Louis newcomers are sharing equipment, drinks and band members at a loud University City duplex. Darion Wigfall, co-founder of the artist collective FarFetched, which has since broken up into other entities, explained that not only was it mutually beneficial to book shows in unconventional venues, it was a necessary part of establishing street cred. He theorizes that at certain stages in their careers, it’s more important that artists “rock with a small clan of peers than a sold-out nightclub.”

Another anchor of St. Louis’ house show scene is the Kinda Blue Club, a modestly sized, residentially zoned, multifamily flat-turned-venue in south St. Louis. Originally operating a bed and breakfast from a much larger, commercially zoned property, owner Larry Fuchs decided he’d rather host musicians. Fuchs decided to use what resources he had to build a scene for himself to enjoy. He also wanted to provide artists a way to grow their fan base more naturally, in the coziness of a living room, on a “if you know, you know” basis.

To learn more about St. Louis’ house party scene, and to hear from Joe Mancuso and Stanley Jones of the Judson House, Larry Fuchs of the Kinda Blue Club and Darian Wigfall, co-founder of the former artist collective FarFetched, listen to the full St. Louis on the Air conversation on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

Exploring St. Louis house shows, and their appeal beyond the stage

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Aaron is the audio engineer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."
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