Want to catch a glimpse at the heart of St Paul’s West Seventh neighborhood? Then check out at the Grand Oak Opry. It is the ultimate house concert location. Sean and Tim open up their backyard (and bathroom) to guests to enjoy local music. Sounds pretty mundane but it’s a pre-civil war house with a double lot, shaded under a 200 year old oak tree (hence the name) and we’re not talking 20 people!
While it was started in one backyard, the whole neighborhood has adopted the regular event. Neighbors are taking money ($10/person donation all going to the band). Neighbors are selling t-shirts, giving directions and watching the show. This has been going on for years and they have never had a call to the police! (Maybe having the Mayor in attendance helps – but I don’t think that’s the reason.)
Want to catch the heart swooning? Come when The Pines are playing. It’s as if the music is coming from the wind at times. Last year, The Pines brought in 300+ guests. That was a record breaker. They blew that away last night with 525+. The crowd was so big that the neighbor next door opened up his backyard too!
While I’ve loved The Pines in several location (News Years at the Icehouse comes to mind), the Grand Oak Opry was really made for them and them for it! The moment they started the crowd hushed to hear Benson Ramey’s aspirated voice, smooth sounds of David Huckfelt and Alex Ramsey on the keyboard. There’s something wintery and ethereal about the songs that feel so refreshing on a summer day – like a breeze finally coming across crowd.
They played for an hour – old songs, new songs, borrowed songs. Folks of all ages sat on blankets and folded chairs, eating and drinking picnic goodies they packed themselves. Kids stood up, sat down, stood up, dragged parents to the bathroom – again. Benson talked about rabbits and a squirrel ran across the powerline above him in jealousy. David observed that despite today’s politics – this is what it’s really about – power in the people in a community. And fireflies flew past. I’m not even making that part up. I haven’t seen a firefly in years but it seems everyone wanted in on the show of the summer.
It’s a tough act to follow but the Grand Oak Opry is going to try with three more shows scheduled: Lady Midnight (Aug 5), Jayanthi Kyle (Aug 12) and Frankie Lee (Sep 2).