Wife and husband duo Noelle Tripolino Roberts and Chris Roberts, known collectively as the Jive Mill, are helping bring Rochester the music industry’s next big thing — tiny concerts.
The Jive Mill organizes, promotes, and produces home concerts in the area. So far, they have around six official shows under their belt, including sets by OK Factor, Sterling Haukom, and Nick Stevens, all performed in living rooms and backyards.
In today’s climate of music consumption, where listening is largely done online and with little to no financial benefit to the artists, intimate concerts are a way for musicians to cultivate a loyal following of supportive listeners. Shows like those facilitated by the Jive Mill are also enticing to local musicians, as Rochester lacks a music-specific venue.
“What we’re seeing lately is, with musicians, if you go to a small, intimate show, you’re more likely to not only pay for the ticket to get in, but then also buy an album or buy a T-shirt. If you’re willing to spend money on that intimate setting, you’re more likely to spend more money,” said Roberts, who says he has watched bands shift from playing sporadic gigs at mid-sized venues to a busy schedule playing almost exclusively intimate shows.
Another organizer of tiny concerts, Jerry Kvasnicka, of Rochester, has hosted acts including Enemy Planes, Chastity Brown, and Six Mile Grove at his residence for private, invitation-only performances.
Kvasnicka says that since the music industry has moved into digital forms of consumption, musicians have it harder than they once did.
“I’m back in the old school,” he said. “I like to support music and I think it’s a good way to financially help the band out.”
Financial benefits aside, the chance for Rochester musicians to play at a venue devoted solely to music is reason enough to explore the idea of intimate shows.
“The show was wonderful. Having a quiet, engaged, and responsive crowd is something a musician like myself dreams about,” said Haukom, who played a Jive Mill show in August. “These types of shows can be few and far between, as the music environment in Rochester doesn’t always offer these types of opportunities. Small intimate shows like these really give us the chance to showcase our talents.”
Food vs. tunes
Rochester’s lack of a music-specific venue was one of the first things Triploino Roberts and her husband noticed when they moved to town several years ago. They laud the restaurants and bars that give artists the chance to perform, but acknowledge that those businesses are there to serve food and drinks first, not music. Tripolino Roberts points out that the lack of a music-specific venue also hurts the community’s young musicians, who are not allowed to play bars.
Unlike the private shows hosted by Kvasnicka and others in the area, Jive Mill’s concerts are publicly advertised on Facebook and elsewhere. At their second show, according to Tripolino Roberts, they were already starting to see strangers at the door.
Finding households willing to host a show has been “surprisingly easy,” said Roberts. Jive Mill keeps an active e-mail list, which is one way it recruits houses as venues.
“We can go into somebody’s house and set everything up in, like, an hour and sound check and open the door and take tickets and start the show. We clean up afterwards and it’s gotten to be really smooth,” Tripolino Roberts said.
Tripolino Roberts went to school for music business and worked for a music publishing company in Nashville. While there, she also booked shows for a handful of artists, and, at one point, she organized an entire U.S. tour of house shows for a band.
Music City to Med City
When Roberts got a job doing music services at a church in Rochester, they moved here. Since Rochester does not have a publishing company, record label, or a music-specific venue, Tripolino Roberts got a job at the Apache Mall, but she soon grew frustrated and the pair started to concoct a plan to keep her music dreams alive.
“I was like, well, they were doing house shows, we know people with houses, so maybe we should just start doing house shows,” says Tripolino Roberts.
They chose the name Jive Mill because it incorporates the influence of jazz music and helps indicate that, wherever their show might be happening, it is “a place where movement and music are created,” explains Tripolino Roberts.
Thanks to their full time jobs, Roberts says, Jive Mill shows happen in spurts. They have a show scheduled for Friday, and in the future they hope to do a show once every couple months, eventually transforming the Jive Mill into a full time occupation.
An emphasis on quality music, coupled with the Jive Mill’s embrace of the historic purpose of living rooms, is what may help them usher in the future of concerts in Rochester.
“This idea of a living room, historically, you’d sit around a piano and sing a bunch of songs together, you’d hang out in somebody’s living room and somebody would play,” Roberts said. “That’s fun, that’s enjoyable, and there’s something of that that comes together when you put on a show in your living room.”