Orchard Street Pump House provides local spot for concerts
Located on Orchard Street in East Lansing, Pump House Concerts provides an intimate listening room experience for concert-goers to enjoy music each month.
Dudley “Smitty” Smith, vice president of the board of the Orchard Street Pump House, said the venue creates a special environment for 50-60 people.
“First off, when the music starts, talking stops and people focus on the music,” Smith said. “It’s not a bar, it’s not a party, it’s a place to go listen to music in a very intimate environment.”
Just because conversation stops during a musician’s set doesn’t mean listeners need to be silent. Smith said listeners can sing along while the artist performs.
He said the musicians who perform at Pump House are mostly solo or duo singer-songwriters who perform Americana music.
The concerts are donation-based. There is a suggested donation of $15 to $20, but students can donate $10 if they identify as such, Smith said.
“It is donation-based, but 99.9 percent of the people who come donate,” Smith said. “All of that money goes to the musicians, 100 percent of what they sell their merchandise for goes to musicians.”
Smith allows musicians from out of town to stay in his house and he cooks them dinner the night of the show, he said.
Rachael Kilgour, a Minnesota singer-songwriter, performed at Pump House on Feb. 25 and performed at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum earlier in the day.
Smith said a lot of times musicians who play at the Pump House will play a typically free “companion concert” at the Broad earlier in the day.
Kilgour said there’s a difference between performing in listening rooms compared to other gigs. She said, “as an artist, it means a whole lot” to have a group of attentive people who are open to listening to her songs.
Even though there could be 30-70 people in the audience, Kilgour said it feels different.
“(It) feels like a one-on-one experience with you and the artist,”she said.
Kilgour said she prefers performing in listening rooms like Orchard Street Pump House because of the intimate atmosphere and also because it can be a therapeutic experience. Listening rooms provide a great opportunity for the audience to serve as a mirror to the artist.
“(It) helps a person to feel less lonely,” she said.
Smith said he tells people if they pay to get in and don’t enjoy the show, he’ll give them their money back. However, he said no one has ever taken him up on that.
Kilgour said she sees an age gap in the audience of a lot of shows in listening rooms, but thinks listening rooms will gain more popularity among young people.
“They’re great musicians, it’s hard to comprehend that this is not somebody’s cousin’s friend who played at their wedding, or something, who’s really good at karaoke,” Smith said. “These are nationally touring musicians from Austin and Nashville and places like that, that make their living doing this. They’re very talented.”
The Pump House serves more functions than putting on concerts, too.
“The Pump House is a city-owned, neighborhood-run community center,” Smith said.