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Thursday night live 

Live at the Music Room’s first season ends with a performance by Jon McKiel. Organizer Jeremy Lutes looks back at the intimate indie series.

The Christmas party season will soon be upon us. Sometimes these occasions with fellow employees feel forced, the small talk painfully shrunken. But other times, these events can lead to something of a festive glow.

The lights went on at a work party in 2008 for Jeremy Lutes. He prefers to keep details of the particular day job under wraps but, in any case, that's when and where he met his "silent partner" in Live at the Music Room, the series continuing Thursday, November 25, with a performance by Jon McKiel.

"It's an intimate moment," says Lutes, describing the spirit of the shows. "We don't have anything as revealing as that. There's a passion that gets captured."

At the party, Lutes and his secret co-presenter realized they shared a connection: She worked in the music business on the west coast in the 1970s while, here in Halifax, Lutes managed bands such as Caledonia and Jimmy Swift Band, and sat on boards such as Halifax Pop Explosion.

Both believed new and emerging bands would welcome the chance to play an audience of up to 110 people, the capacity of The Music Room, in an advanced acoustic environment.

"The appeal is the opportunity given to the up-and-comer," Lutes says. "Let's give someone who deserves it---someone who can't afford it---a chance to do a live recording."

Of course, this brings up right away the definition of a deserving band or artist. "If we both agree on it, then that's enough," Lutes says, adding that bands who haven't yet been recognized with awards, but "have some buzz" and make "good music" are sought.

So far, they've presented Acres and Acres and Steve Gates (of Caledonia, which Lutes says right away is due to his own bias as past manager of the band). Both shows happened in May. On the Saturday during Halifax Pop Explosion last month, they presented jazz/hip-hop duo The Extremities in an afternoon show. "It didn't work," says Lutes.

A crowd of "25-ish" showed up. But it didn't matter to The Extremities, AKA Uncle Fester and Fresh Kils. According to Lutes, they told him, "We don't care, let's go make the record."

They haven't had a sellout yet, but Lutes isn't concerned. "In The Music Room, even a crowd of 50 people is OK."

For now, the co-promoters are spending ("more than $2,000, less than $4,000") and not making money. They cover everything, including advertising and publicity, room rental, bar stocking and service, staffing and, most importantly, having the performance recorded and mixed by The Music Room's in-house engineer, Tyler Myalls, and mastered by J. LaPointe of Archive Mastering.

"We're looking at, long-term, this whole thing breaking even," Lutes says, adding that they're looking to reach that point in roughly two years. Artists are paid a flat fee. Tickets are held at $10 in advance and $15 at the door. "The artist incurs no cost," Lutes says, adding, "they get paid better than fair, in my experience." The recording is sold on maplemusic.com, where it's $10 for the album or a buck a song. Artist and promoter split sales revenue, but Lutes and co. own the master.

The partners are already looking at the 2011 season, getting help from, in part, Josh Hogan of Diminished Fifth Records, who's helping line up some bands for "acoustic metal shows."

Live at The Music Room w/Jon McKiel, Thursday, November 25, 8pm, The Music Room, 6181 Lady Hammond Road, $10, ticketpro.ca

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