ORLEANS – On Thursday, Dirk Powell and Riley Baugus will play Club Passim in Cambridge. On Tuesday, they played in Dinah Mellin’s living room.
The loft had the best sound, the kitchen had the pretzels, but in the living room you could just about reach out and touch Powell’s fiddle or Baugus’ banjo.
What happened at your house on Tuesday night?
Powell, a recording artist who has played with many legends, including Joan Baez, and Baugus, who has also recorded with many legends, including on the astonishing “Raising Sand” by Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, are on tour together.
So how does a nationally touring act end up in Mellin’s living room putting on a house concert?
Bob Weiser, a disc jockey at WOMR in Provincetown, saw online that the two musicians were on tour, going through New England, and they had a night off. He contacted them asking them to be on the air with him, and they asked if he could get them a gig while they were on Cape. “Let me make a phone call,” he told them.
It was short notice, but Mellin, who has been throwing house concerts for about four years, said yes. Mellin,who has a mailing list, sent out notice that she was holding an event. The suggested donation, all going to the musicians, was $20.
And that’s how for one magical night, world-class roots musicians sat down into the rootsiest of settings, a home.
“Just the fact that everyone is sitting together makes it more of a community event, and less of an us (the audience) and them (the performers) event,” said Marsha Finely of Dennis.
Baugus agreed and added, “I feel the energy more when I am closer to the people.”
Powell said, “These house concerts are kind of on the rise. They are so great, so intimate, and so much of this music evolved for exactly this” type of setting.
The word “intimate” came up every time Cape Cod Wave asked about house concerts. “This is how music was before there was recorded and broadcast music,” said Weiser. “This is going back to the way it was done.”
Weiser added that, “there are several of these (house concerts) going on on different parts of the Cape. It is basically a word-of-mouth kind of thing.”
“This is completely and totally intimate,” said James Rice of Dennis. Rice is musician who also plays roots music. He called the house concert “a listening environment.”
And Gail McAleer of Harwich said, “There’s no microphones, no amplifiers, just pure music. It resonates in the ear, the body, and the soul.”
Check out this short sample of the evening. And shortly after Baugus sings, “I ate more chicken than a pretty girl can fry,” you hear Mellin’s dog barking in the background. It’s all part of the music – house concert music.
— Brian Tarcy