Small but strong

The B-Side brings indie bands to intimate setting

Matt Kelley, photography by Ellie Bogue

Matt Kelley, photography by Ellie Bogue

In the music industry, the “B-side” referred to the flip side of a 45 rpm single (remember those?) that offered another, generally unreleased to the airwaves, song to accompany the hit song on the A side. In Fort Wayne, The B-Side is the brainchild of One Lucky Guitar’s Matt Kelley, who is bringing musicians to the city to perform in an intimate, brick-lined room that’s part of his marketing firm’s second-story space in the historic building at 1301 Lafayette St.

Intimate is the key word here: Kelley says the space can hold at most 75 people, but the “sweet spot” is about 55 people, who gather to hear non-mainstream artists like Mike Doughty, a singer-songwriter, poet, author and former member of Soul Coughing, scheduled for late July. Kelley said he tries to bring in artists once a month or so, and he said he seeks out groups and individuals he likes and wants to expose Fort Wayne to.

The concept plays off the “house concerts” concept, where musicians travel to individuals’ homes to give a performance for a few dozen people. The hat is passed, CDs are sold, and the musician draws fans in areas where large-scale concerts might not succeed. Kelley is recreating that tradition with The B-Side shows, which generally feature independent musicians who have strong – but small – fan bases. These are not a Memorial Coliseum kind of event.

The concerts are curated by Kelley, who draws on suggestions from his One Lucky Guitar staff and his musician friends. (Kelley is a member of the Legendary Trainhoppers, the popular Americana band that recently reformed after a hiatus of several years.)

“We as musicians collect and love the B-sides,” the unusual and the rare performers and performances, Kelley said. And while he was familiar with house concerts, the idea of using space in his office for a similar event didn’t occur to him until he went to the Americana Music Conference in Nashville, Tenn., where the Be Good Tanyas were performing in the middle of an office space.

“It was super cool,” Kelley said. “I started to imagine what we could do.”

First up was David Bazan, the Seattle-based singer-songwriter and the former lead singer of Pedro the Lion, who had been performing in people’s living rooms and similar small venues. He came to The B-Side in December 2012, and “people were out of their minds” excited to see someone who wouldn’t normally be able to sell out a larger Fort Wayne venue such as Come2Go or the Embassy – and who aren’t on everyone’s musical radar. They are the kind of show once held at the late, lamented Toast & Jam venue on East Berry Street, Kelley said.

“We’ve never made money on a show,” Kelley said. “Our goal is to not lose too much money. It all goes to the artist. It’s our little contribution to the quality of life” in the city, he added.

“I want people to say that if it’s at The B-Side, then it’s OK.”

First appeared in the September 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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