AMSDConcerts Saved By Move to New Venue

| February 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

 

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church is the new home of AMSDConcerts.

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church is the new home of AMSDConcerts.

Carey Driscoll certainly didn’t conceive the idea of acoustic concerts in a church, but with his string of about 530 concerts at the Normal Heights United Methodist Church on Mansfield over the last ten years, Driscoll has set the bar so high in San Diego that no one else will ever clear it. Driscoll’s concerts define what a great series should be; stellar artists in a quiet and respectful venue with no alcohol (and therefore, no “wooooo-wooooooooo” screams from the audience, and no cell phones!). San Diego simply doesn’t have another venue anywhere near as nice as Driscoll’s, and no other venue presents the artists he does.

Driscoll has a knack for booking name acts, many of them from the 60s and 70s who just cannot fill a venue like Humphreys or the Sycuan Arena, but are a bit too popular to play a small venue like LeStat’s or the House of Blues. You might see one of Driscoll’s act now and then at the Belly Up, but you’re going to have to pay twice as much to stand during the show and fight with the drunks and the cell phone cacophony.

San Diego music lovers have been treated to shows at AMSDConcerts by the likes of Richie Havens, Janis Ian, the Turtles, Steve Forbert, Al Kooper, Chris Hillman and Loudon Wainwright III. These are up-close and personal shows, with a break between sets for the concert-goer to meet and chat with the artist, get a CD signed or just express their appreciation for the music.

All of Driscoll’s work, and the decade he spent building the concert series to its current state were in real jeopardy late last year when he was informed by the new pastor of United Methodist Church that the pastor intended to change the footprint inside the church. The plan was to rearrange the pews in a semi-circular fashion so he could preach from the center, a sort of “church in the round” arrangement which would cut the number of seats significantly, and, worse for the concerts, would have half of the audience with their backs to the performer. Over several months there were discussions about how to make the concerts work in the new arrangement but when it became apparent that wasn’t going to be feasible, Driscoll started casting around for a new venue, announcing in an email to his mailing list that if a new venue didn’t come along, he’d have to end the series.

That’s when two of his regular concert-goers stepped in and suggested that Driscoll talk to the folks at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Southeast San Diego. Those talks ended up bearing fruit, and as of December 23, AMSDConcerts had a new home. “We were not only referred to it; the ball was carried on our behalf by a couple who’s been coming to AMSD through the duration of the whole concert series,” Driscoll says.

Located at 1370 Euclid Avenue, just off Highway 94, Our Redeemer Lutheran will be an even better venue than the Normal Heights Church for several reasons. The first is the two large parking lots. Regular concert-goers in Normal Heights often had parking problems once the streets in front and on the side of the church filled up. Some had to park four or five blocks way. That’s a problem that will be non-existent at Our Redeemer. The church will hold a few more than 250 people, so it’s a venue of about the same size but with parking for everyone. The second feature that will truly make the concert experience nicer is that the rows of pews in Our Redeemer elevate from the front to the back of the church, much like in a movie theatre, so your field of vision isn’t obscured by two bobbing and weaving heads in front of you.

AMSDConcerts regulars couldn’t be more thrilled by the turn of events leading to the move to the new venue. Janet England has attended nearly ninety shows at AMSDConcerts, (that’s about $2,000 at an average of $25 a show, and that’s real dedication.) England certainly speaks for the whole audience: “I saw my first concert at AMSD in April 2006 and my 89th in October 2013. I was sad to learn that Carey would have to leave his venue in Normal Heights, and maybe even close AMSD. There are many places around the county to hear live music, but since I first discovered AMSD it has always been my favorite. Carey brings in such diverse musical genres, from fabulous bands we’ve loved since our teens, to musicians from all over the world. I was thrilled that he found a new home not far from the old one, and with its own parking! My 90th concert will be at the new home on Euclid Avenue, and I can hardly wait!”

The first show at the new venue will be a Guy Davis performance on Feb. 7. Davis is the son of actor Ossie Davis. Davis’s influences are as broad and varied as his travels, from Blind Willie McTell and Fats Waller, to Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal, from Zora Neale Hurston to Garrison Keillor. He’s a musician, composer, actor, director, and writer and he blends all of his
experiences to convey his love of the music.

Tickets for the Guy Davis show are $20 for reserved seating, $28 for preferred upfront seating, and $47 for the dinner package with first five rows seating. You will need to build in about ten minutes driving time to get from DeMille’s on Adams Avenue over to the new venue on Euclid, but that’s a short drive for a great dinner followed by a great concert.

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