New concert venue the Warming House coming to south Minneapolis

The future home of the Warming House in south Minneapolis.

The future home of the Warming House in south Minneapolis.

“I think this is the best audience I’ve played to, ever.”

So Tim Barbeau, frontman of local band the Lone Crows, informed the inhabitants of his living room last Saturday during the first of two fundraisers for the Warming House in as many nights. Barbeau is one of many local musicians who say the Twin Cities scene will be enriched when the new music venue — located at 4001 Bryant Ave. S. in Minneapolis — opens its doors in April.

The founders of the Warming House — Brianna Lane, John Louis, and Greg Neis — boast 55 collective years of experience in the music business. That number tops the capacity of the intimate new venue, which will house between 30 to 50 concertgoers.

“When I was touring on the East Coast back in my twenties, I would play these lovely listening rooms,” says Lane, a veteran Minneapolis singer-songwriter and executive director of the Warming House. "And it was this: a house concert, but a public house concert, where anyone can come and sit and listen to music and hear all the words.”

As indicated on the website of the nonprofit organization behind the new venue, “The Warming House will be a performance space dedicated to providing acoustic folk, singer-songwriter, and Americana music performance in a quiet, respectful environment to audiences comprised of willing listeners.” 

Conceived as “the missing piece” to the Twin Cities music scene, the Warming House will be the only space besides 500-plus capacity venues like the Cedar Cultural Center where locals will be able to, “listen to live music without aural competition from bartenders mixing drinks, diners’ noisy plates and glasses, gurgling cappuccino machines, loud conversations and the revelling of those who are there for everything but the music," according to its website.

The Warming House will host professional national-touring acts every Friday and Saturday, as well as a wide range of workshops, open mics, jam circles, and other community-serving programs on Sundays through Tuesdays. Its founders have plans to collaborate with existing institutions like Nick Hensley’s “MN Songwriter Showcase,” Jim Walsh’s “Mad Ripple Hootenanny,” the Minnesota Bluegrass & Old Time Music Association, and perhaps even the Cedar itself.

Among the venture’s most vocal advocates, songwriter Dan Krzykowski of local band Lakewood Cemetery praises the founders’ “bold statement that – even when made by musicians who haven't yet received much press — music has value on its own. It is not a bonus to an audience whose primary focus is eating, drinking, or bowling. This market needs a strong institution to act as an incubator for young talent.”

Michael Ferrier, frontman of local band Fathom Lane, is convinced of the Twin Cities' need for a venue like the Warming House. He even became one of the organization’s first contributors (donations are being accepted here). Ferrier explains:

"Even though the Twin Cities music scene is rich with venues, the Warming House will fill a void: a true listening room. The concept is already taking hold within the blooming house-concert scene, but a small room that is actually built for playing and listening is a rarity. Rooms where music fans can engender the type of experience that certain audiences crave: a deeper connection to music and how it is made, and insight into the mysterious conduit that can be built between an artist and the listener." 

Last Saturday, Louis and Lane shared with house-concertgoers their vision of a future where Minneapolitans would feel confident going to the Warming House on any given weekend, whether or not they had prior knowledge of the performers on the bill.

“We want people to feel comfortable taking that risk," Lane said, "to feel good going to that show since it’s at the Warming House.”