After about 30 years of concertgoing, I would rather experience live music in a small venue compared to any other place.
You don’t have to worry about being able to see. It is easier for the audio engineer to come up with a good sound mix for the people in the room to properly hear what the musicians are doing.
The smaller venues, where you can actually see the musicians and they can see you, encourage audience members not to talk and to pay attention to the music. You become more of a participant in the show than an observer.
The South Jersey venue that best exemplifies this experience is the Lizzie Rose Music Room on Route 9 in Tuckerton.
A former restaurant, the Lizzie Rose Music Room is one of the most intimate places to see a national recording artist live in South Jersey.
The room holds only 50 seats, five sets of chairs on the left and the right, and the chairs only go five rows deep.
You look up at a small stage with images of flowers and lions etched into the stained glass windows behind the musicians.
Lou Reichert, the music coordinator, books artists of the type of music that doesn’t dominate radio such as blues, jazz, soul, bluegrass, country, rock, singer-songwriter and other genres.
The music is the focus of the night, unlike a restaurant where the food is the emphasis. There are no televisions to distract from the music appreciation. You can bring beer or wine, but alcohol is not served, so you don’t have to worry about drunks.
A mom-and-pop, nonprofit operation, Lizzie Rose will sometimes have homemade baked goods to snack on.
You are close enough to see and hear the musicians talk among themselves. When they talk into the microphone in between songs, you can understand what they are saying. If an audience member yells something out from the crowd, the musician will hear it.
Reichert keeps the ticket prices affordable, so that a couple can attend a show and not break a $100 bill.
A visit to the Lizzie Rose Music Room is not complete without Reichert reading the list of sponsors and encouraging people to clap for their favorites, and also joking that people can drop in their credit cards and blank checks when he passes around a box for donations.
A musician will not get rich by playing there, but the acts I have seen play seem to appreciate having a group of active listeners sitting in front of them.
My favorite style of music to see there is the blues. It’s encouraging to see young blues musicians who are keeping the art form alive even though they could possibly make more money playing more popular forms of music.
The blues, roots and R&B label Alligator Records has had its artists there, including Mississippi native Jarekus Singleton, 33, and Florida native Selwyn Birchwood, 32.
Singleton has played there once. Birchwood has performed there four times. All of the shows sold out. Birchwood also filmed a PBS special at Lizzie Rose that will be broadcast next month on WHYY-TV 12 out of Philadelphia.
All of the acts that I have seen there, including Singleton, Birchwood, the Skyla Burrell Blues Band and jazz group Fluxtet, have been excellent. I had never heard of any of them before I went to check them out. You can take a chance on a show and be rewarded for your curiosity.
The venue will be celebrating its third anniversary Sept. 22. Hopefully, Reichert will keep booking the acts that he does, and more people will discover this hidden treasure in Ocean County.