Although the room was small, its acoustic music resounded through the walls of Switchyard, a Bloomington music venue.
Local residents and musicians sat on the floor beneath hanging lights indoors or gathered around a fire outside Sunday as Chris Darby, Nathaniel Seer and Merrie Sloan performed.
Folk musician Tim Baker said he is always the host of shows at the Switchyard on Sunday nights. He said it is by far the best place to play on a Sunday because the audience is so intent on listening to the performers.
“It takes most musicians offguard initially because usually you have to fight to be heard at a bar situation or really any kind of venue you’re playing at,” he said. “At the Switchyard, everyone came there to see music. Everyone came there to see you. Even if they don’t know you, they came to see you do what you do. They came to see you be you and they’re just quiet and attentive.”
Before the show, Baker offered food and drinks to the audience members and invited them to sit down and relax by the fire. At the beginning of the show, he welcomed the crowd to the venue and played two of his own songs.
Baker said part of the reason the audience is so attentive is the patrons are musicians.
“Everyone is just trying to get ideas or help promote more musicians and help people keep doing what they want to do,” he said.
Bluegrass musician Dave Johnson said this is one of the reasons he enjoys playing at the Switchyard.
“You can pick things up, you know, maybe he plays a C chord a little differently than you do, so you can pick that up,” Johnson said. “But it’s just that everybody gets quiet, or they get loud and are singing along, but they’re really here to listen to whoever is doing whatever they’re doing, and it’s cool.”
Johnson said he has been coming to the Switchyard since it started showcasing music six years ago. He said he met Baker through open mic nights at Max’s on the Square, which is now closed.
Like Johnson, Merrie Sloan said she began singing and playing piano at the Switchyard five or six years ago. Sloan also said the great thing about the Switchyard is its audience.
“It’s a great listening room. A lot of times you can hear like a pin drop,” she said.“It’s all about the music and people are really appreciative. It’s fun, people sing along, there’s a kind of a formal informality above it almost. I guess I would describe it more as a reverence for people who come for the music.”
As a mother of two, Sloan said she doesn’t play as much as she used to, but she still tried to get out and perform. She said she has previously played a show with her son at the Switchyard.
“I really like the family atmosphere,” she said. “My kids can come and that’s really great.”
Johnson said he used to shy away from the microphone when singing, but playing at the Switchyard has helped him become more confident in his voice.
“It’s a great way to meet people and just jam,” he said. “I just really like the intimacy.”
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