“Songs From The Couch,” the simply-titled new concert series curated by New York City-based musicians Emma Beaton and Blair McMillan, represents a novel combination of Concert Window’s two extremes: the intimacy of a house concert and the expansiveness of an internet community.
The series takes place in Beaton and McMillan’s cramped Brooklyn apartment, where a taxidermied stag head watches over a charcoal couch. The first show featured the singer/songwriter Margaret Glaspy, whose cozy, jazz-inflected delivery was a natural fit for a concert that could accommodate thirteen audience members at the maximum. Glaspy is a personal friend of Beaton and McMillan, who initially approached the show with a loose, experimental attitude.
“It was kind of an excuse to have a party and have our friends in. And also, to have our friends make a bit of money at the same time,” says McMillan.
That, and the format supplied a live audience, an incentive that regular Concert Window laptop shows do not.
“Artists have a certain hesitation about doing a Concert Window show cause they’re like, ‘nah, I don’t want to perform to my computer screen,’” McMillan explains. “And I think that’s what appeals to musicians, is they get an instant response: the minute they finish the song, there are people clapping, and they can really gauge if the audience likes it or not.”
It didn’t require much ingenuity to knock the quality up a peg, either. All it took was the purchase of a USB microphone—“the kind you can buy for $100 on Amazon”—to give the internet audience high-quality sound while preserving the closeness of the in-person experience.
“Songs From The Couch” has several acts already lined up for the summer. May 29 will feature banjoist Wesley Corbett and mandolinist Jacob Jolliff, two of Boston’s most talented young pickers, who take one bluegrass favorites and pop anthems with breathtaking ease. The Boston Boys, a neo-folk ensemble with roots in jazz and rock, will perform on June 18th, while bluegrass guitar virtuoso Courtney Hartman is scheduled for July 16. Singer-songwriter and longtime Brooklyn resident Ana Egge will perform on August 6.
Glaspy, Corbett and Jolliff, The Boston Boys, and Hartman all boast connections with Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music—not surprising, since Beaton briefly attended the school and lived in Boston for several years. The series thus far has an obvious folk bent and a tendency towards instrumental precociousness, a mark of many Berklee alums. As “Songs From the Couch” expands its reach and solidifies its identity, Beaton and McMillan will no doubt continue to find inventive, technically dazzling young musicians from a range of genres to feature in the uniquely community-oriented setting.