Bring it back home

North American Home Routes concert tours becoming increasingly popular way to see live music

The ladies of Scarlett Jane are travelling across the prairies playing a series of home shows as part of the Central Plains Circuit Home Routes concert series. Supplied

“Literally we’re playing music in people’s living rooms and around kitchen tables,” says Andrea Ramolo, who makes up half of the Toronto-based band Scarlett Jane with Cindy Doire.

Ramolo and Doire will perform in houses and small venues over the next couple of weeks in small communities across Manitoba and Saskatchewan on the Central Plains Circuit Home Routes Concert series.

Home Routes was founded in 2007 by a group of folk music heavyweights including Mitch Podolak and Ava Kobrinsky, who co-founded both the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the West End Cultural Centre, as a way of bringing live music to communities that otherwise might not have that experience.

It also gives new artists the opportunity to perform a full 12-stop tour without the hassle of trying to find a venue themselves.

“Sometimes you call a bar in a community and say, ‘Hey can I play here?’ but the bar is closed, or they only take cover bands,” Ramolo says. “(Home Routes) is already set up.”

Doire said she and Ramolo make an investment in each small town they visit, because news of the concerts primarily spreads by word of mouth.

“You have to go to coffee shops and stores, talk to the people that live there and get to know the community,” Doire says. “If you’re revisiting a small town you might have met a few people the first time, and had 10 people come out to your show, then the next time there might be 30.”

Ramolo and Doire have both played large venues and festival shows, but said playing a home show really connects them to the audience.

“It’s so intimate, and people are right there, right beside you watching and paying attention,” Doire says. “The audience really gets to know you over the course of the show.”

Ramolo says the way it works is that they show up a few hours before the show to set up and eat dinner with the hosts, they play the show and then leave the next morning.

“It depends on the host, but usually we stay up late jamming or getting to know each other,” she says.

“There’s an after-house concert kitchen party that turns into this big jam,” adds Doire. “I’ve played house shows where I’m leaving in the morning and haven’t slept at all.”

Ramolo says that a lot of the time the people who are hosting them are middle-aged, which adds comfort to her because it’s like visiting family.

“Its really a comfortable way of touring — you’re in a familiar environment, even though it’s not familiar,” she says.

Ramolo and Doire have been friends for 10 years and both released solo albums before collaborating as Scarlett Jane to create Stranger, produced by Stew Crookes (Hawksley Workman, Doug Paisley, Justin Rutledge).

“It’s really amazing that we can do all of this stuff together, because we are still first and foremost great friends,” Doire says. “If we spend a few days away from each other, we laugh and call each other and say, ‘Shit, I miss you.’”

Published in Volume 67, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 19, 2012)

Related Reads