Take Five: For the Sake of the Song

Boston-area singer-songwriter Patrick Coman moved to Boston last September and wanted to recreate the DIY music scene he had enjoyed in Nashville and Berlin.

“Those shows were always the most fun because the atmosphere was more laid back and more communal between artist and audience,” he says. “It also seemed like a great way to learn more about the music scene here in Boston and to get to know more bands and musicians.”

So he launched a series of house concerts, For the Sake of the Song, highlighting local folk, Americana and roots music. This Saturday, Sept. 11, the series celebrates its one-year anniversary at the Armory in Somerville. Coman performs alongside Garlic & Moonshine and Dressing the Debutantes.

I asked Coman to talk about the origins of the series and how it has evolved.

Why did the name “For the Sake of the Song,” from the line by Townes van Zandt, stick out to you as a name for this series?

To me that phrase “For the Sake of the Song” is really what I wanted this series to be all about. I try to pick artists that I think are excellent songwriters, which can obviously mean different things from instrumental stuff with Flightless Buttress to more traditional singer/songwriter material from guys like Dietrich Strause and Brendan Hogan, and give them a venue to perform in where people can really focus on the stories they are telling with their music.

You portray FTSOTS as an opportunity to give new and upcoming artists visibility. How has this worked out, for the series and for those musicians?

That’s an interesting question and you’d probably have to ask some of the artists to get a better idea from their perspective. I’d like to think that through the series, these artists have been able to connect with a whole new audience of people who might not want to go out to bars or clubs to hear live music but will come to our shows because there is a unique atmosphere to the house concerts. We’ve also gotten some press throughout the year for some of the bigger showcases we’ve done and I think that has certainly helped get our name out there and hopefully the names of the groups involved as well.

What makes a house concert special? What have been some standout moments from the past year of FTSOTS shows?

House concerts are great and if people have never been to one they should really seek them out. There are tons of DIY venues and house concerts here in Boston but sometimes you have to go out looking for them (I didn’t know that for a long time after I moved here). They are special because the wall between performer and audience is basically nonexistent. You’re together in a small room and it feels more like a conversation back and forth than a “concert”. When I think of standout moments, they come back to that idea. For instance ,we had one group called The And Company, who is this great trio of songwriters that play all kinds of percussion instruments and switch back and forth between singing lead and back up. They were really great about getting the audience involved, to the point of actually passing out shakers and things to everyone and getting us to play along. Our first show with Brendan Hogan was also great because I think the people that came had no idea what to expect, and so it was a huge relief when Brendan, who is just a great performer and writer, blew everybody away and people definitely went away saying “Oh, that was great, I definitely want to come for the next one.” Garlic & Moonshine and Dressing The Debutantes, who are both playing our one year anniversary show, were both awesome as well and it was fun to see them cram all their instruments into our tiny living room and somehow make these beautiful sounds come out.

You’ve had some milestone shows at O’Brien’s and the Middle East Upstairs. Why did you take the series out of the living room for those shows?

This was a difficult decision in some ways, because we wanted to plan a few bigger shows to make the changing of the seasons (spring for the Middle East and summer for O’Brien’s) but we obviously didn’t want to lose what makes these shows special by moving to a venue. Ultimately, though, it was a great opportunity to plan a show with a few more acts on the bill and to get the name of the series out there to hopefully draw people to come check out the house shows. Clay at the Middle East and Kerry at O’Brien’s were really great in helping both of those shows come together so that we could do something that was still intimate and focused on the songs while still bringing them to a more “typical” venue space.

What has been the reception to your series from the Boston music community?

So far, the reception has really been great. Living in Nashville for awhile, I got used to musicians tearing each other down a lot, so Boston has been refreshing in that way. Clay and Kerry, as I mentioned above, were very kind and gracious in helping us bring the showcases to some area venues. Another person who has really helped get the word is Tom Bianchi, who runs the open mic at the Lizard Lounge (among many, many other things). From the first time I met him, he has been super supportive and has helped me connect with so many great musicians that have played one of our shows. Musicians who have played the shows have also been great about passing along suggestions of other performers, which I suppose is a good sign that they would recommend our shows to other musicians.

You recently released your first full-length album, “Southern Storms.” How has the FTSOTS experience influenced your own musicianship?

In some ways it just helped me raise the bar. Seeing all these great performers month after month forced me to practice more, play more, and hopefully write better songs! I’m sure I’m not unique in this way, but when I hear good music, it makes me want to make good music of my own. On a practical level, a song like “Nights Like Tonight” is completely taken from the idea of these shows. It’s all about enjoying the moment and enjoying playing music for the sake of playing music instead of worrying about things like success and failure which in the end aren’t as important.

What should people look forward to at the Armory show? And why the Armory?

First, we picked the Armory Cafe because it is a great intimate venue with a vibe very similar to our house concerts, so it just seemed like a perfect fit. In addition to our two featured acts, Garlic & Moonshine and Dressing The Debutantes — who would be worth the price of admission on their own — we are also raffling away some band goodies like CDs, merch, and even a potential song written in your honor. We want to be half show/half celebration as a way to say thank you to everybody that has been a part of the series over the last year.

What’s in store for the second year of the series?

There are some big changes in store for the second season. The first is that we recently moved from a house to an apartment so we’ll be running shows from a series of “foster homes” until we try out a few places to see what will be the best fit. Also, in addition to our regular shows, we’ll also be putting together a few themed shows which will focus on a particular album, artist, or idea, which I think will be a lot of fun.

You can friend FTSOTS on Facebook. Photos courtesy of the FTSOTS blog.

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