By David Fletcher
Six months after the coronavirus hit, the only venues open are not the ones local music fans used to call home. While livestreams have held us over, people like Matthew Kurzman have taken matters into their own hands.
“I’d been renovating this house for myself for nine months,” he says, pointing to his Parkdale home with light blue accents. “I had just finished it, and I wanted to celebrate. I missed live music, so I booked two bands in my front yard.”
Kurzman is no stranger to the concept of house shows — a do-it-yourself music scene staple for bands looking to play new material to an exclusive group of music lovers in a setting you have to ask to find.
Hoping to avoid the possibility of noise complaints, Kurzman invited his neighbors to the first show, figuring that if everyone was invited and the show ended early enough, nobody would have any reason to shut down the front yard show.
“The neighbors all loved it so much and asked me to do more of them,” Kurzman says. “I told them that these first two were my treat to the neighborhood, but I would need them to help chip in if I was going to keep it going.”
Now having done 28 of these shows, Kurzman’s Front Yard Concerts page has garnered nearly 500 followers and a slew of regular show attendees from around Dallas and a regular crowd of onlookers from the neighborhood.
The rules are simple: BYOB, mask up, be polite and take your trash with you. Kurzman also prefers that you use the restroom before you arrive. The sets only last about an hour, but they can run longer if the atmosphere is right.
Bands looking to play are encouraged to contact Kurzman via the Facebook page. Just keep in mind that this is his house, his front yard and his neighbors.
“I’m pretty picky,” Kurzman says. “I only want to present stuff that I’m proud of. If I like it, I’ll book it. If it’s not my taste, I’ll tell them it’s not what I’m looking for.”
“I’m going to get to play to all these people who live on this street and in this neighborhood who wouldn’t normally get to hear me play,” she says.
Kurzman may have started the series as a way to fill the live music void in his life, but he began to think of it as a way of offering financial support to struggling musicians.
“I just realized all of my musician friends were in such a dire situation, not only dying to get together and play with other musicians, but also struggling financially,” he says. “I saw it as a way to turn it into a regular thing. Now we’re doing them two or three nights a week.”
Kurzman offers musicians a guaranteed payment funded by donations through mobile payment services, a tip jar and his own pocket.
“I need people to come to help pay the band,” Kurzman says, citing his electric bill that has tripled because of the amplifiers and sound systems some musicians need to perform.
“I’m not trying to make any money on this,” he says. “I’m just trying to cover my expenses so that I’m not losing money to do this.”
King begins her set as the evening enters twilight. Her soulful voice echoes through the neighborhood, calling neighbors to their front porch furniture — camping chairs, pickup truck beds, curbs — as more cars pull up and unload on Kurzman’s front lawn.
It’s a diverse crowd made up of King’s family, local music diehards, Marc Rebillet and slow-passing looky-loos rolling their windows down to hear what all the fuss is about.
Sure, this isn’t a night at Trees or Three Links, but on this Saturday evening, there is no better music venue in town.
“COVID can only kill live music if we let it,” Kurzman says. “I’d like to see more people doing this kind of thing.”
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