We Checked Out The New Intimate Music Venue in Phoenix, The Listening Room

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For anyone who worships the singer-songwriter mastery of Melanie Safka, who rose to prominence in the era of the big rock festivals like Woodstock and the Isle of Wight Festival, the chance of seeing her in an intimate setting is hard to pass up. But a 50-seat venue? It’s almost like being in the artist’s home, rummaging through the fridge. In addition to hearing Melanie’s talented singer-songwriter daughter Jeordie and unorthodox flamenco guitarist son Beau Jarred, you got to hear Melanie sing her classics and narrate her passage from a naive Jersey girl wandering in the Brill Building to a heritage artist adjusting to becoming a widow. It’s more than intimate — it's like being invited into somebody's nervous system.

That’s the heart and soul impetus behind The Listening Room (4614 North Seventh Street), a new alternative performance venue created by marketing and music manager Jim Colletti and his husband, singer-songwriter Adam Smith.

“Our vision was to create a space for the performer that was void of the distractions found in other places so that an audience can remain fully focused on the performance,” Colletti says. The Listening Room also provides the performer another side benefit, “a great live video, also void of noise and distraction.” The club is not only outfitted with a superb Bose sound system, it has numerous cellphone cameras strategically placed to capture all the cozy action.

Although opening night with Melanie and Family exuded only positive vibrations, The Listening Room is a partly a reaction to some of the negative experiences Adam Smith encountered while performing locally and touring nationally.

Says Colleti, “Venue owners did not intentionally create bad experiences, but also did not set the intention to create better experiences. Most venues do not have music as their 'main focus.' Most have revenue streams that are dependent on sales of food and beverage, and as a result, the music and the performer are secondary. So we were inspired to do this after countless situations where audiences were watching TV at the bar and responding loudly to the sports game, sitting close to the stage and loudly conversing with their friends, all while ignoring and distracting the performance. Or, by the times when the venue owner did not provide good/adequate sound equipment, a safe and comfortable space to perform, the courtesy of welcoming the performer, and most importantly, the lack of ability for a performer to generate revenue and build a fan base within these environments. By and large, performers are paid far too [little], if they are paid at all, for their time and talent.”

After Colleti and Smith gave careful thought to the performer experience, and once the stage and support pieces were in place, they arranged the rest of the room for the audience, including a designated merch booth in the back, perfect for after-show meet-and-greets.

As for choosing Melanie as the christening act, it was she who approached the pair through her representative and asked about playing the room.

“We had envisioned her performing at The Listening Room Phoenix, and the stars aligned,” Colleti says. “We believe that Melanie is symbolic of the potential of all acoustic performers and singer-songwriters in Phoenix. She is an example and role model. Her hard work is to be celebrated. She will bring an energy to The Listening Room Phoenix that will not only support our opening, but will benefit all talent that takes the stage here for years to come.”

Although the brick-faced stage and microphone logo suggests stand-up comedy, Colleti assures that while comedy, spoken word, and other forms of communicative entertainment will eventually figure into their programming, The Listening Room is mostly focused on and dedicated to local and touring acoustic musicians. All the acoustic guitar paintings on the walls kinda tell you that.

And the audience, at least this one, seemed starved for this sort of acoustic showplace. At one point, after Melanie outlined the sleep-deprived drive from Los Angeles to make her gig at the Musical Instrument Museum the night before, a grateful audience member shouted out, “We’re glad you’re here.”

To which Melanie, taking 2016 into account, replied, “I know, we’re all dropping like flies! I've got to make it 'til the 50th anniversary of Woodstock!”

With intimate music Phoenix venues perpetually dropping like flies, let’s hope The Listening Room enjoys a similarly long run.

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