Live In The Living Room: A Listening Experience

By Cara Wegener
In Culture

Just off South Jefferson on Pestalozzi stands what used to be an old buggy shop circa 1903. The space was renovated by Tim Tucker, grandson of former mayor Raymond Tucker, who also played part in the development of the City Museum alongside Bob Cassilly.

Now, complete with large wooden carriage doors and a plethora of St. Louis history, the space is home to Allan Hug and Kelly O’Neil, founders of KAOH Media. Taking over as the new curators, they worked out a deal with Tucker leading to an agreement that any pieces he had collected—and wanted to leave behind—they would gladly inherit. This includes hanging stained-glass fixtures, walls adorned in masks, antique machinery, vintage business signs, a 100-year-old bar and, of course, a massive green winged griffin, named Gregory.

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KAOH Media is a boutique digital marketing and communications company that focuses its work on various causes such as renewable energy, advocacy for medical marijuana, upon other more corporate ventures.

“We get paid to identify audiences and move them online through digital media,” says Hug. Aside from working on their budding marketing business, the duo are avid music-lovers, travelers and collectors. Passionate about giving artists the opportunity to perform for a room full of listeners—rather than the usual rowdy bar crowds or overzealous housewives—the two spawned an idea.

“You go to these smaller venues, and you see the artists competing over conversation and glassware, and so, we really wanted to create a listening experience for the artist,” says Hug. “St. Louis has a great [music] scene, but we don’t really embrace it like the other cities do.”

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Combining their entrepreneurship skills, their lovely living quarters and the desire to provide artists with the respect they deserve, Hug and O’Neil developed a concert series called Live In The Living Room.

“I went to my first house concert ever in my friend John Lynch’s home,” says O’Neil. “It was Martin Sexton, and I thought, ‘What an unbelievable connection with the artist.’ Everyone was so connected in that room, it didn’t matter where you came from. We want that to resonate in this space.”

Proving that this method is successful by the number of at capacity acts they have booked, Hug and O’Neil’s home has become the most unique place in St. Louis for artists to not only be seen, but actually heard. “People get really quiet,” says Hug, “They tiptoe to the bathroom.”

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Though the sessions have created a place for people to meet, the Live In The Living Room performances were not intended to be another one of St. Louis’ “networking events.”

“A lot of these do become a networking event, but it didn’t originate that way,” O’Neil explains. “It brings a lot of different people together. surprisingly a lot of people from the county. They leave here saying ‘that’s amazing!,’ leaving a positive image for the city.”

Though they try to limit the shows to one per month, they leave room for last-minute touring artists or people they know coming through.

“Thursday and Saturdays have worked well,” says Hug. “To start early is key.” Shows typically go from 8pm-10pm, and they do typically sell out.

O’Neil and Hug use local event organizing website Bazaarboy to generate reservations based on a $10 contribution. Space is reserved online; you cannot buy tickets at the door and the venue fills up fast with seating for around 50 people.

“We don’t take any of the money,” says O’Neil, “One hundred percent of what comes in goes to the artists.” Since the audience is contrived mostly of fans who want to fully engage with the musicians, donations and tips are a huge part of the end of the night earnings.

“Several artists have walked out with nearly double what the reservation link brings in,” says O’Neil. The musicians are selected by a mixture of hand-picked performers and a number of performers that have reached out via Facebook and email.

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As far as the future of the concert series goes, O’Neil wants to involve the audience in a much more intimate way. “The next thing I want to do is get some drums [etc.] and, as long as the musicians will allow it and the instruments make sense, to give some instruments to people in the crowd,” says O’Neil, recalling a similar experience she had while visiting friends in Kauai, Hawaii. “Mt. Thelonious did a sing a long last show and it was an awesome experience,” adds Hug. “The audience was really engaged and everyone left the show in positive spirits.”

Bands are responsible for their own sound during the living room sessions, which has provided for some serious stripped-down, warm performances. However, Hug and O’Neil fear falling into one specific genre or sound.

“We would like to bring some more diversity in. Kim Massie, we’re trying to get her on the book, which will be so fun,” says O’Neil.

It is a fairly new venture for the couple, but their dedication and delivery has performers from all over wanting to be a part of the listening experience. The past five shows (the only shows thus far) included: Javier Mendoza, John Flynn, Lee Coulture & Friends, Richie Kihlken Band, Neil Salsich, Jim Peters, The Breakfast Boys, Mt. Thelonious and The Leonas.

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Although the year has just begun, Live In The Living Room is almost all booked up for 2016. Tune into Live In The Living Room on Facebook for future show announcements and or to reserve your spot.

All photos by Allan Hug and Kelly O’Neil.

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