The Listing – The Warming House
- 4001 Bryant Avenue S.
- Minneapolis, MN 55409
- Opened in May 2016
- Capacity of 49 seated
- Mix between couches and chairs
- Non-alcoholic beverages available
- Easy street parking
The seed for The Warming House was planted back when veteran Minneapolis singer-songwriter Brianna Lane was touring extensively along the East Coast. She noticed the large amount of old folksy listening rooms, designed to be smaller and give attention to the music on stage. Club Passim was one such venue that helped inspire the design and focus of the venue. Having played there, she enjoyed the intimate nature and always felt heard.
John Louis (co-owner) and Brianna were hosting house shows every other month when she rhetorically asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this permanently?”
John, not realizing she didn’t completely mean it, responded, “Yeah, let’s do that.”
The name quickly followed, coming from a sign they passed in Colorado for a hiking store. Fortuitously, co-owner Greg Neis opened Farmstead Bike Shop at the same time, sharing the building on Bryant Avenue South. Just like that, the East Harriet neighborhood had their own listening room.
They fancy themselves as a tiny Cedar Cultural Center. Music fans can expect to hear every note and every lyric of the performance. Musicians can expect to be heard and the audience to listen. The venue and concept is a much-needed contrast to noisy bars and coffee-shops.
As a non-profit, the venue relies on donations, memberships, and sponsorships that keep things rolling. Their membership program starts at $75 a year and provides a slew of perks like free tickets to shows, pre-sale opportunities, and invitations to members-only meet and greets. As Brianna shares, their members are just people who want to support local music and help keep the spirit of the venue strong. Current sponsors include the Farmstead Bike Shop and Gator Pit Studio, and comes with added promotion through the venue. They also offer volunteer opportunities to assist and learn skills with running a venue, like data entry, graphic design, and handling tickets and concessions at shows.
The venue caters to musicians with some wonderful elements. There is a Spotify playlist designed to showcase artists coming to the venue. This constantly changes and will give you a warm-up to what’s on the calendar ahead. They also live-stream every show through Concert Window. Starting at $1, this service provides a gesture for anyone not able to make it down the stairs for a show. There are boards that artists have signed each year adorning the space.
Finally, the cozy green room provides a quiet space from the main room for artists to relax. It’s the small things that make the venue comfortable. It’s also the quietness of the building that makes them heard and, for national touring artists, the reason why they would want to come back.
As a type of community center for songwriters, the bulk of services are what make The Warming House an integral part of our music industry. Open mic nights for kids, jam nights, evenings to showcase rough drafts of new songs, and music business discussions are some of their services from which all musicians can benefit. These amenities are essential for growing, learning, and navigating the oftentimes sharky waters of the music business.
Having John Louis, Doug Collins, Victoria Malawey, and Brianna Lane as personal assets is beyond helpful. Their combined knowledge and experiences provide priceless resources. They plan to start hosting happy hours with Dissonance, a company focused on mental health issues and finding ways to a healthier environments in the arts community. It’s obvious to see how much care and heart goes into the venue through these outreaches. It gives local musicians an incubator; a safe spot to learn and grow.
There is a bridge all musicians are trying to find, the one where their music can travel directly from the stage to the ear. It sounds simple enough, but with clanking glasses, people talking in the back, and cell phones distracting us, venues are becoming more difficult places to hear the message. The Warming House understands that lost desire and the way music needs to be absorbed. By cutting away distractions, it puts all of its musicians first. It gives the highest opportunity for that bridge to be built. It gives musicians a place to be heard, for their own seeds to develop.
“I’ve always said, as a songwriter, I’d rather perform to five people who are listening than to a room full of people not listening,” says Brianna Lane.
Brianna Lane, Executive Director
In more than 10+ years of touring, via bike and car, Brianna Lane has been a musical mainstay to our Twin Cities community. This priority on community grew out living in Asheville, NC for college, where she had a community of songwriters and a support network. It was a utopia to nurture her craft and make music. When moving back to Minnesota, she realized the Twin Cities was all about bands and rock music. Quiet spaces were never really part of our scene. The Warming House fills that void, and growing up across the street brought an unexpected career endeavor to fruition.
Her Yamaha MG16XU sits in the back of the room, providing just enough channels for the space. A small PA frames the stage and Brianna shares how fantastic it sounds in the space. It’s the perfect equipment for a 50 person venue where simplicity has a purpose. There is a piano available for use, and an iPad hangs to the side for live streaming. Nestled down below the bike shop, it’s easy to hear the reason for the location. Away from busy streets and gentrified neighborhoods, it’s a quiet repose.
There is a repurposed lounge upstairs that opens at 7:30pm and all shows start at 8pm, which gives people a chance to grab drinks and relax. The venue feels like an extension of Brianna’s own music. There’s a sense of weight and resolve that is balanced like a tranquil living room. The integrity of her mission is clear and reflects the variety of music the venue pulls in. The Current’s Radio Heartland and Minneapolis Song School are prime examples of this. National artists grace the stage weekly to provide an amazing rotation of Americana, folk, and acoustic music.
Earlier this year Brianna Lane was commissioned by The Cedar Cultural Center with funding from the Jerome Foundation. Her performance and emotional honesty is proof that talent and ambition still mean something. As with her venue, it’s still a rare thing in today’s world and one we all want to see more of.
Grab a drink from Harriet’s Inn two blocks down before heading over to the venue. It’s a classic neighborhood bar with plenty of food and drink options. If you want a softer seat for the show, get there early to snag a spot on a couch or recliner. Finally, feel free to hashtag events as #songsaregood. Consider it a badge of excellence.
The Guest Room
Victoria Malawey, Composer and Performer
A few years ago I first visited The Warming House to participate in one of the singer-songwriter rough draft nights led by John Louis. It was a lovely, low-stakes gathering among maybe a half dozen local songwriters. Each of us played a new song or sketch of a song for each other and took turns giving each other feedback. Even though sharing one’s work is an act of vulnerability and at times intimidating, I found my experience at The Warming House rough draft nights to be supportive, safe, and helpful to developing my craft as a songwriter. I continued going regularly and saw my confidence increase and my songwriting skills improve over the months to come.
In addition, over the past year I began playing my songs out and about at various venues in the Twin Cities, and I am indebted to The Warming House for providing opportunities, such as the rough draft night and open mics, which helped me build the courage to perform for others. I debuted my solo act, Novvaa, at a concert last June at The Warming House as part of their Free Music Thursdays series.
Last year I became a board member of The Warming House and began leading rough draft nights specifically for women, trans, femme, and gender non-binary musicians on the second Tuesday of each month. We wanted to create a safer space for FTW/GNB songwriters, as many local songwriting events tend to be cis-male dominated. As with all community events at The Warming House, participation is donation-based and we do not require monetary donation to participate. Through the FTW/GNB rough draft night, we’ve brought together a lovely group of folks and continue to cultivate community while also improving our songwriting skills.
Having an intimate and supportive venue focused on making music and listening without distraction was invaluable to me as a musician sharing my original music in live performance for the first time. I now perform regularly at small venues throughout and around the Cities.
Full schedule can be found here.
Music venues are the lifeblood of our community. By providing musicians the opportunity to showcase, collaborate, and experiment with their craft, venues are essential in their development. This series will continue to promote and support our local venues across Minnesota. Please see the previous articles below and go support local music. Our hope is these articles show the importance of supporting venues and places where creativity can thrive.