For as long as I have been going to shows, from sold out arenas to a crowd of a mere 30 people, those small concerts have always been the most memorable. The opportunity to be that close to a favorable musician alone was enough to make me swoon. But most importantly, that connection of experiencing the music with the people around me produced a pleasant feeling of belonging in my chest.
With a bar setting and a “party hard” environment, an intimate show comes with distractions though. But minimizing those distractions is what one local songwriter and performer hopes to accomplish.
Founder of the new performing arts project, Up Close Concerts, Tim Oehlers is passionate about the connection made between the performer and their listeners.
“A song is a story, a unique work of art— someone writes the lyrics and it’s a direct relationship to the audience of what they went through. People should listen closer to the stories these people are telling them in their songs,” he says.
One of the important aspects about a show like this is what the audience can take back from it. The artist can say something relative to a certain audience member and that one thing could resonate with them, even helping them.
“I think people need that encouragement. It gives them the opportunity to connect more,” said Oehlers.
It’s more than just active listening— the production and set up factor into this sort of intimate setting. Seats right near the stage, rather than a standing floor, will help captivate people and decrease the amount of distraction. The venue itself must carry a particular atmosphere before Oehlers considers booking a show there. “I have to go in and I have to feel it. I have to visualize a show there,” he said.
As the years have gone by, these close encounter-type shows have become a hidden gem. With Up Close Concerts, Oehlers hopes that these types of shows happen all the time. Focusing on the locals will keep the art noticed and vibrant— valuable for keeping Toledo’s music culture alive.
Just getting started
In what he calls a “respecting of art” approach, Oehlers created the concept as a non-discriminatory endeavor for musicians of all genres, so anyone can share and sell their music closely with others. Admission rates to the concerts are kept low, so fans can easily attend more often. Oehlers is hopeful this also opens up the idea to spending that difference in expense of what a normal ticket would cost, on the artist’s music or merchandise.
Oehlers has booked shows through the end of May at a new arts venue owned by Miriam Wagoner called The Art and Performance Center of West Toledo (located at 2702 W. Toledo Ave.). Wagoner’s motivation for opening the venue, which includes an art studio with two kilns, space for classes, and more, echoes Oehlers belief in the power of accessible art.
“There is so much talent in Toledo – I have travelled in the circle of these local artists much of my life,” explained Wagoner. “I want to provide a space which allows for seasoned artists to share their craft and expose new and up and coming artists and community members with the powerful influences of the visual and performing arts.”
For having started only recently, Oehlers new undertaking has already received positive feedback and has what looks to be a promising future. It’s possible that eventually instead of watching a show through a phone screen, the phones will be silenced, and all that will ring will be the sounds of the tunes. Until that point, booking with venues and contacting artists is the main focus.
You can catch any of the upcoming shows listed on Up Close Concerts Facebook event page at facebook.com/upcloseconcerts419