Speed dating for live music? Microsessions presents a novel way to discover more Austin musicians to love. Participate in a round-robin-style series of intimate mini-concerts, followed by a longer set of your choosing.
Once every month, you can check out four different acts during this fast-paced, lively night of music that’s also affordable and fun.
Microsessions, Speed Dating for Live Music
Microsessions’ tagline, “speed dating for live music,” refers to the way participants experience events. Each of four musicians or bands plays a 15-minute set simultaneously, in different rooms at the same venue. Audience members rotate after each set, until they’ve seen all four acts. Afterwards, the groups break up as each person returns to watch their favorite act of the evening perform a final, 30-minute set.
What makes the shows so special is a balance of established and relatively undiscovered acts, each playing a different genre of music. So you really do have a good chance of listening to someone you’ll love. At a recent show, my group listened to chill songstress and Black Fret 2017 major grant winner Sarah Sharp in the first room. Sharp kept us entertained with personal stories and songs. Next up was Arielle Laguette, a honey-throated singer who swayed us with her jazzy folk/pop.
From there, we entered up-and-comer Eric Burton’s lair, where he wooed the audience with heartfelt soul. He won the room over completely by injecting improvised lyrics about the audience into his songs. Burton’s genuine, personable nature drew me in. I can’t wait to see him play again soon.
Adam Ahrens & Bradley Jaye Williams played our fourth microsession of the night. The duo brought out a fascinating array of stringed instruments, including guitars, ukulele, and even a Puerto Rican cuatro.
Then the groups dispersed, heading back to their favorite act for the finale.
Inspiration Strikes Twice in Austin
Microsessions, influenced by the concept of a house concert, combines that personal, familiar setting with Austin’s smoking hot music scene. Founder and creative mind behind Microsessions, Paul Schomer, came up with the kernel of his concept years ago, after attending a songwriters’ happy hour in Austin. He hosted music showcases in his home at the time, Washington D.C., and even dabbled with hosting a SXSW showcase in 2011.
After attending an Austin house concert featuring five bands in 2015, the old lightbulb went off over his head. Schomer left the event inspired, and soon visualized the round-robin-style show that became Microsessions in 2016.
Schomer originally envisioned Microsessions as a podcast, broadcast from music hotspots around the country, but later decided to launch it in Austin. It didn’t hurt that you can barely shake a stick in Austin without hitting a musician. Our vibrant local music scene and appreciative audiences accustomed to attending live shows made the city ripe for Microsessions.
No newbie, music lover and musician Schomer comes with a formidable pedigree. Prior to moving to Austin, he worked for Reuters, SiriusXM, and NPR for five years as Senior Online Producer for Music Programming. At NPR, Schomer produced the first six episodes of “All Songs Considered.” Because of his rich background in the world of music, he’s the perfect person to put these shows together. Microsessions benefits from his experience and he treats his featured acts well.
When asked about recruiting performers for Microsessions, Schomer shared his process:
“I book the showcases in a number of ways, but the process is sort of like the format itself: I set a few basic rules and let it run wherever from there. For each one, I look for two more established acts and two up-and-coming ‘discovery’ acts. I also try for gender balance when possible, and lastly, the music in each of the four rooms should be from four distinctly different genres.
“…I have a few basic requirements: that an act has 60 minutes of original, well-rehearsed material, some of which has been recorded live and can be listened to online (YouTube); that they’ve got a recently updated website, Facebook page, and/or Instagram account, preferably all three; and they have recorded music online at Bandcamp or SoundCloud.
“It’s also a matter of listening–to the radio (I’m a huge KOOP and KUTX listener), and to recommendations from friends and Microsessions vets (often the same people!).”
Attracting Austin’s Musical Talent
Musicians appreciate playing Microsessions for a number of reasons. Schomer compensates his artists well and emphasizes the undivided attention artists receive at such a focused, intimate affair. He also encourages them to bring albums and merchandise to the shows, sign up audience members to their mailing lists, and get the word out about upcoming appearances.
Another benefit to musicians is the opportunity to play in front of people who may not see them otherwise. Because the artists come from distinct genres, the odds of two acts sharing the same audience is slimmer than at other shows.
Artists also can be part of the selection process by referring other acts to Schomer or—soon—by hosting and curating the talent at the shows themselves. Matt the Electrician will be the first Microsessions guest host on March 24, 2018, taking one of the four slots and curating the other musical acts for the night.
Schomer does not appear to rest, as he’s also launched Microsessions for Private Events and is launching Microsessions Classical this year. In addition, he’s put on two shows in New York City and has plans for San Antonio, Washington D.C., and other cities going forward, in the spirit of the initial podcast idea. The Microsessions podcast is still on the table, as Schomer is going to start audiotaping the sessions. He’s also looking into the best way to introduce live streaming.
Microsessions has a new local sponsor for January, Oskar Blues Brewery. The event receives additional support from Bose Professional Systems, which lends portable sound systems for each show. The Jan. 27, 2018 show lineup includes Wiretree, Grace Pettis, Christina Cavazos, and The River Has Many Voices.
All in all, Microsessions delivers on its promise. It’s a fun and efficient way to hear live music and root out a new favorite or two. If you’re a fan of house concerts and small shows where you can actually chat with the artists, then you’ll love Microsessions.
@jojoaustin wants to know:
Which local band would you like to see play at Microsessions?