Show of support: Dyson House owner John Burns, musicians team up for ReOpen the House fundraiser concert
BY JOHN WIRT | Special to The AdvocateMay 10, 2018 - 12:00 pmBaton Rouge musicians and audiences love the Dyson House Listening Room. Owner John Burns got all the confirmation he needed when every performer he asked to play an upcoming fundraiser said yes.
The grass-roots music venue will host ReOpen the House from 12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Performances will be held outside the venue at 7575 Jefferson Highway. The lineup includes local talents like Denton Hatcher, Kristin Courville and Eric DiSanto, The Fugitive Poets and New Orleans singer-songwriters Paul Sanchez and Alex McMurray.
Donations from the concert will help pay for renovations necessary for the venue to meet building code standards. The requirements forced Dyson House to close last July.
In mid-March, Burns launched a fundraising campaign to update the venue to code. To date, that campaign has reached nearly half its $20,000 goal.
Burns received an especially heartfelt gift from the building’s previous owner, Deana Dyson Ashworth. She sent a $1,000 donation with a note.
“My dad is yelling down from heaven — ‘Send them something. It has my name on it,’ " Ashworth wrote. "Thrilled you are doing this.”
For Burns, reopening Dyson House isn't a matter of if — it's when. At time of publication, the listening room passed all inspections needed to reopen. Concerts are scheduled at the venue in the coming months.
In advance of this weekend's fundraising event, Burns discussed details about upcoming improvements and how local musicians love Dyson House.
Were you surprised that everyone you asked to perform at Saturday's event signed on?
I didn’t expect so many bands to want to participate, but they all were excited about it. Other musicians wanted to participate, but we had too much music. I’m lucky that so many musicians love the space and concept.
How do you feel about how the Dyson House audience has responded to your fundraising campaign?
It’s heartwarming. I’m honored that people think what we’ve done has been worthwhile and that they’ve donated.
Managing the Dyson House requires time, energy and money. When the building code issues came up, did you consider letting it go?
Most people would accept being shut down by the city as defeat. We were having some great shows but then, all of a sudden, (we were told,) "Stop. You can’t do it anymore." As time went on, I had to cancel shows. I wondered if I could reopen, but it is going to happen.
Many venue operators might have seen the building code requirements as an unfair burden. Did you?
I’m behind them 100 percent. I want Dyson House to be safe for everybody. When we only had one bathroom, we had people waiting in line. Nobody complained, but it’ll be a lot better to have two bathrooms.
Donations to the Dyson House may be made through brownpapertickets.com (search "Dyson House Listening Room") or by check mailed to Dyson House LR Inc., 4180 Churchill Ave., Baton Rouge, LA, 70808.
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A grass-roots music venue that was forced to shut down nearly a year ago will reopen on Saturday, May 12 for a fundraising concert needed to get the place buzzing again.
“I didn’t expect so many bands to want to participate, but they all were excited about it,” said John Burns, co-owner of The Dyson House Listening Room. “Other musicians wanted to participate, but we had too much music. I’m lucky that so many musicians love the space and concept.”
The plug was pulled at The Dyson House Listening Room during the summer of 2017, which was about a little over a year after the non-profit venue opened for business.
Many know the location by its former business, the Mail Bag. When that business moved to a new location, Burns jumped on the opportunity to take over the space.
The venue was lovingly named after The Dyson family, who owned and lived in the house for about 50 years.
The charm of the meaning behind the name was indicative of the atmosphere the building provided to patrons and musicians.
“John Burns and Kevin Sweeney have created and fostered something special with Dyson House,” said Jonathan Tillman. “It’s where people can see an early show sitting in chairs and drink their own drinks while taking in an intimate show of some great songwriters singing their songs and telling stories.”
It’s because of this reputation that the little venue with nearly perfect reviews started packing out. That eventually caused some problems.
The house that was built in 1940 was not meant to be a concert venue. For that reason, the city stepped in and shut the place down.
A first-round fundraising campaign gained enough to make the repairs needed to bring the building up to code. In an interview with The Advocate, Burns was asked if he felt the code requirements were an unfair burden.
“I’m behind them 100 percent. I want Dyson House to be safe for everybody,” he replied. “When we only had one bathroom, we had people waiting in line. Nobody complained, but it’ll be a lot better to have two bathrooms.”
For those who fell in love with the space, bringing the venue back is worth more than its weight in repairs.
“Dyson House has become an essential Baton Rouge experience of the culture here in town,” Tillman added. “The passion and selflessness of John Burns is nothing short of inspirational.”
The Dyson House Listening Room is located at 7575 Jefferson Hwy. The ReOpen the House fundraiser will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Dyson House Listening Room: How two guys created a buzzworthy BR venue in months
BY MATTHEW SIGUR (View Online Article Here)
The first time John Burns walked into the old Dyson House gift shop on Jefferson Highway, one thought kept bustling through his mind.
“I walked in here, and I thought, ‘Man, music would sound good in here,’ ” he said. “The next day, I brought a little jam box in here, and, sure enough, it sounded good.”
That was October.
By the end of March, Burns and Kevin Sweeney’s Dyson House Listening Room has become the place to play if you’re a local musician.
So far, the new venue has hosted local musicians including Clay Parker and Jodi James, Ben Bell and the Fugitive Poets, The Rakers and Elsah as well as touring acts like Urban Pioneers, Robert Ellis and Caleb Caudle.
What is Burns’ and Sweeney’s secret?
It’s simple: They both love music.
“Our goals are to promote and have as much local music as we can,” Sweeney said. “Original music — that’s the focus.”
“We’re just having fun,” Burns added. “We’re just trying to give musicians an opportunity to play.”
Dyson House Listening Room sits at 7575 Jefferson Highway.
Baton Rougeans might remember the new venue as the old Mail Bag shop. The house was built around the 1940s, Burns said. The Dyson family owned and lived in the house for about 50 years.
When it came up for sale, Burns, who owns Christian Street Furniture, saw an opportunity to possibly move his business to the one-acre plot.
“I was going to strip this place down and make it my new place of business,” Burns said.
However, his lease at 7474 Corporate Blvd. for the furniture store is six years away from expiring.
And once he got the idea of putting musicians in the old Dyson House, he was reticent to just sit on the space.
“As long as I can keep it empty and make it work financially, we will continue to do this and have shows,” Burns said.
Bringing a new music space to Baton Rouge was an idea Burns and Sweeney had been batting around before the space became available.
Childhood friends from the Capital City, the duo started brainstorming about a year ago, Burns said.
“(Sweeney) knew all the great music in town,” Burns said. “(Sweeney) started introducing me to all these bands, and I started to realize the wealth of music that we have right here.”
After getting the property in October, burns started contacting musicians. First, he Facebook messaged Alex Cook with the Rakers, then singer-songwriter duo Parker and James.
The latter act wanted to do something different, so they took Burns up on the offer to play at Dyson House.
“They played a gig in December without even seeing the space,” Burns said. “They had 60 people show up. Our max capacity is 65. It was a fun night. Thank goodness we had them for the first show, because then, all of the sudden, we had a little bit of a reputation.”
The success has continued.
Earlier this year, Bell and the Poets played to a sold-out crowd.
“(Bell’s show) was the best one yet,” Burns said. “We filled up the place, then had to open up the porch, and about 20 more people were outside dancing. I think those people outside had more fun than the people inside.”
The shows have kept piling in, and it’s become work, Burns said.
While Burns is busy at Christian Street Furniture, Sweeney has his own 9-to-5, working for the state Department of Environmental Quality.
“I’ve become a janitor,” Burns said. “(Sweeney) will come and clean up. I’m not paying anybody to do anything.”
The busy-ness will die down for a bit at the venue, as the duo will take April off.
But Burns and Sweeney stress Dyson House Listening Room isn’t a business.
“This is not a money-making proposition,” Burns said. “All the money that comes in goes directly into the bands’ pockets. If we started taking money, then it becomes more complicated. Then you have to become a business.”
“The best thing we can do here is to try and achieve success for the show. That’s my goal. I want 60 people in here, all paying. I want to see maximum dollars go to the band.”
On a Saturday night in late February, Dyson House Listening Room is nearly packed.
Patrons line the hall, sitting in chairs and couches, ready to hear acoustic music.
First up is Joel Willson, a violinist known for playing with Minos the Saint and collaborating with many other Baton Rouge musicians. After him, Dave Hinson’s new dance/classical music collaborative project, Treble Bass Movement, performs. Then, it’s See Schaff Run, singer-songwriter Caroline Schaff’s acoustic band.
During each song of each performer, there’s silence.
And that’s something you won’t find at another venue.
“These bands, they play everywhere in town, but here, the people are paying attention to what they’re doing,” Sweeney said. “You get people in here who are appreciative of what these musicians are doing, and they enjoy the music.”
“That’s what musicians love.”
Follow Matthew Sigur on Twitter, @MatthewSigur.