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.
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