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Songwriters series finds new home in downtown Rochester

Songwriter and "Songwriters in the Round" host Pat Egan hopes to recapture the momentum he had in 2020.

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From left, Amanda Jay Fuller, RaeNelle Osteberg, Gina Marcucci and Pat Egan perform during "Songwriters in the Round" Jan. 22, 2020, at Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — As a musician, Pat Egan has a good sense of timing. As an event planner, that remains to be seen.

In 2020, Egan started a series of live music and discussion events at Gray Duck Theater called “Songwriters in the Round.”

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The event series drew more than three dozen people and appeared to be gaining momentum from there.

As with all things with a promising start in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the series to a halt.

“We didn’t have the best of timing,” Egan said.

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After hosting half a dozen shows at the theater, Egan has found a new home for the series at Treedome, 309 S. Broadway Ave. The series also has some funding thanks to the Rochester Downtown Alliance and Thesis Beer Project. Now he needs some momentum again.

Having a unique music experience will itself be a draw for some people, Egan said.

“These are the types of shows I like to go to,” he said.

Treedome co-owner Nathaniel Nelson said he offered to provide space at his record and vintage store for the series to give songwriters an outlet to hone their craft together.

“I think those are really crucial for young songwriters to understand what it takes to be a songwriter and what goes into a song,” Nelson said. “There’s a positive effect of not just playing a song, but talking about songs too.”

Nelson noted Steam and Forager Brewery host regular open mics that provide a similar experience, but added there are few other options for songwriters to share their craft in a conversational setting.

“There aren’t any listening rooms in town,” Nelson said. “Even ours is a bit of a stretch because it’s a shop, it’s still a record store but it’s a lot easier to reformat that than it is to shift a bar into a quiet space.”

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Pat Egan adjusts the sound levels before "Songwriters in the Round" Jan. 22, 2020, at Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

“Songwriters like this type of venue,” Egan said. “You’ve got an audience that’s listening, they’re not talking over you, drinking.”

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Having grant funds and a sponsorship to pay musicians from the region with a wide fan base should help too, Egan added.

“Before, I felt guilty about asking musicians from the (Twin) cities to come down,” he said of the previous six shows. Musicians were compensated, he said, but funding, which was tied mostly to attendance, had been sporadic.

With funding and Nelson’s contacts from years of booking shows, the remaining songwriters series for 2022 features well-known regional performers and musicians from as far away as Pennsylvania.

“A lot of these people are my friends or I’ve worked with them before but they’re not necessarily easy gets,” Nelson said.

The next event is Nov. 20 featuring Soren Staff of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, band Them Coulee Boys; Annie Enneking of Annie and the Bang Bang of Minneapolis and Brooke Surgener of Erie, Pennsylvania.

The Dec. 4 show will feature Minneapolis musician Chris Koza and Milwaukee musicians Ellie Jackson and Caley Conway.

As of the second week of November, the remaining showcases for 2022 are the only scheduled. However, Egan said he will likely continue the series. Nelson said he would be on board if that happens in 2023.

“I think continuing it is a no brainer,” Nelson said, adding that the sit-down crowds at Treedome might already be reaching capacity.

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“The space is the real question,” Nelson said.

“That’s to be determined,” Egan said.

If you go

What: Songwriters in the Round

When: 6 p.m., Nov. 20; 6 p.m. Dec. 4

Where: Treedome, 309 S. Broadway Ave.

How much: $10 at the door.

Related Topics: MUSICROCHESTER
John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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