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DIY House Helps Foster Independent Music Community


Photo credit: Photos provided by Michael Davidson

Written by: Communicator StaffFebruary 17, 2016

Written by: Joshua Storrs

Michael Davidson’s home is more than just a house. It is also a community for the local “Do It Yourself” music scene.

Musicians play their electric instruments in Davidson’s basement through a PA in the corner. Acoustic sets are played in a crowded living room surrounded by a shelf full of records, cases of books, and a cow’s skull on the wall.

Davidson’s house, the jokingly-named “Bob Vila’s This Old House,” is located at 1824 Saint Joseph Boulevard. The homeowner hosts both local and touring acts for audiences of all ages in an effort to support the DIY music scene in Fort Wayne, he said.

“I take no money whatsoever. All the money goes to the touring bands,” Davidson said. “It’s just a blast doing it. It’s something that people were doing when I was younger, so I felt like I should take it up and pass that on.”

Ryan Kerr will be headlining the next show at the house, Feb. 28 at 7 P.M., accompanied by five other acts: Robert Harrison, How to Survive in the Woods, Shitty Neighbors and Pink Balloon Band. Tickets will be five dollars at the door.

DIY music is characterized by performers on shoestring budgets, all-ages shows, and small, intimate house venues, said Davidson. These elements, he said, are what makes DIY one of the most fun and welcoming communities in Fort Wayne.

Davidson explained that most DIY venues don’t last long if the owners allow drinking, which often gets the house labeled as a “common nuisance” by the police. To avoid this, Davidson does not allow drinking during the shows. After shows, when most people have gone, it can be a different story, he said.

The first show was booked before the sale of the house was even finalized, said Davidson. When working with his realtor, he looked for a place with the things he needed to run a venue, such as a basement.

Davidson said he takes special care to greet any newcomers to the “Bob Vila” house, doing his best to make sure they feel comfortable. He knows how awkward it can be for new show-goers to meet a group of strangers for the first time.

“You know it’s the right address, you can hear people inside but it’s still intimidating to just walk into a house full of people you don’t know,” he said.

Davidson will often let bands stay with him overnight, he said. On these occasions, he makes a point to cook them dinner, and they are usually kind enough to help with dishes and cleaning the house later, Davidson said.

“The bands that will come in and hang out before the show … getting as involved as they can are the bands that come out way more on top.”

As opposed to the bands who stay in their van without socializing, leaving trash everywhere when they depart, Davidson said.

Ryan Kerr is a local folk-punk/americana musician with experience playing at house shows around the country, including “Bob Vila”’s. He feels that he has a strong connection to the audience at a house show.

“You have as much fun as you can possibly have when you’re playing [house shows]. You move around to getting the crowd involved” said Kerr. “I like to get in people’s space a little bit. It causes people to interact with you more. There’s no separation; we’re doing something together.”

Robert Harrison is another local acoustic musician who has played multiple shows at Bob Vila’s, including the first show ever hosted there. He appreciates that the DIY scene is alive and well, but believes it to be in a place where growth is still difficult.

“The biggest thing is just letting people know that it’s out there” said Harrison. “When people come to ‘Bob Vila’s,’ they’re like, ‘I didn’t even know there were house shows.’ We’re in an age where the information is so readily accessible, but not the correct information.”

Harrison also sees a recent decline in new bands being created. He said that whenever he sees a high schooler at a show, he asks them if they’re in a band. If not, he encourages them to start one with their friends. Part of DIY’s mission, he said, is to foster new talent.