By Michael Lello
Photos by Jesse Faatz
What do you do if you’re in charge of booking an 1,800-seat theater, but you want to host an act that might not be a viable economic proposition in a room of that size?
If you’re FM Kirby Center Managing Director Will Beekman, you put them in the lobby. With one show in the books (Amy Helm) and two more coming soon (Joan Osborne and Alejandro Escovedo), the Kirby’s “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” series is taking advantage of an aesthetically breathtaking space to put on intimate, club-sized concerts.
“Artistic quality is a big thing for us. We don’t put anything on our stage or anywhere in our building if we don’t buy into and believe in it,” Beekman said. “I found out there were a lot of great artists out there that would reach out that would say ‘We’re not quite ready to play 1,800 seats yet.’ The lobby opens a lot of doors for us for artists to play here.”
One-hundred twenty-five concertgoers turned up for Helm’s show on March 21. With patrons seated at tables near the stage, perched on the large staircase or sitting on small sofas, the crowd looked relatively full, even though Beekman says the capacity for the lobby shows is around 400.
Conversely, “If we have an artist that’s drawing 300 or 400 people, and we draw 300 people (in the main theater), it looks incredibly empty,” Beekman said.
The Helm event served as a dry run and debut all at once.
“In the beginning of the evening I was nervous, and at the end of the night I felt great,” Beekman said. “We got great feedback from people who loved the show. It was total luck of the draw that Amy and her band ended up coming into the crowd with unplugged instruments and played to people sitting at their tables. People ate that up.
“I think there’s a bit of a buzz that was generated from that show, and I think that’s carrying over to Joan Osborne and Alejandro Escovedo. We’ve seen ticket sales pick up.”
The current bookings in the series are part of a singer/songwriter sub-series. The venue is in talks to possibly bring another performer of some renown in June, which would wrap up the opening run of shows. Otherwise, Escovedo’s show next week would close this portion of shows.
“We’re trying to do a genre-based series,” Beekman explained. “This is supposed to be more of a singer/songwriter series. Maybe we’ll do a jazz series or a blues series. We have an idea for a series devoted to local musicians down the road.”
Joan Osborne will perform at the Kirby Center as part of the “Live From the Chandelier Lobby” series on Wednesday, April 9. Alejandro Escovedo will perform as part of the series on Tuesday, April 15.