When driving down Second Avenue near Murfreesboro’s Main Street on any given night, you may hear the muffled sounds of live music or see crowds of people pouring into one particular front yard. Here sits the newest frontier of the house show scene in town: Dad’s Garage.
Dad’s Garage is a living room venue run primarily by MTSU music business major AJ Gruenewald and roommates Ben Jarrett, Matthew Schumacher and Cody Jeffcoat.
What began as an affinity for punk rock and the power of live music turned into a booking company and venue that is a D.I.Y. mecca for bands right here in Murfreesboro, Nashville and across the country alike.
All shows that take place at the house are scheduled and organized through Gruenewald’s startup, Flamingo Booking.
“So originally, I kind of decided to dip into booking a little bit once I started a band in town, and I guess that was almost two years ago at this point,” Gruenewald spoke of the beginnings of his self-taught entrepreneurship.
He started out by scheduling shows for his band and others at Autograph Studios and the former TFG, a hole-in-the-wall storefront near Murfreesboro’s square that hosted local punk shows until it was closed in the spring of 2015.
“Once I got a house I wanted to start booking more regularly, and to keep it organized, I made a little booking company page called Flamingo Booking.”
“I basically did the same thing as AJ. I started a band and started booking our own shows, and then we started living together and decided we wanted to book shows and book them the way we thought they should be booked: with cover charges, not donation-based, to make sure touring bands got the money they need,” Jarrett, a sophomore music business major, added.
And thus, Dad’s Garage was born.
What makes them a landmark on the D.I.Y. map is not only the fact that they host shows almost every weekend, sometimes multiple within a span of a few days, but that they pay the bands that visit and play.
At first doubted by some in the scene, they’ve proved themselves to the community by drawing massive crowds and giving touring bands their fair share of proceeds for over six months now. As other venues in the greater Nashville area have closed and the house show scene seems to be shrinking, bands have flocked to Dad’s.
“We would just rather not take the risk of them not having the money because we kinda know how it feels to be on a tour and not know what money you’re gonna get to get to the next city, and if you’re gonna have to go out of pocket. We let bands that come here stay here, and then just have a good time and get the money they need playing to people that actually care about the music,” Jarrett said.
“You can guarantee them a certain amount of money if there’s a cover charge, and then it’s up to you to promote the show,” Gruenewald commented. “I think it comes off pretty professionally to be able to set a guarantee and have a charge on the show and it’s been able to secure us some bigger bands at the house.”
They charge a $5 per person cover for most shows and are able to pay many bands even more than they promised.
“We don’t really make a lot of money off these shows, we don’t really try. We just try to give the bands most of the money,” explained Jarrett.
It’s clear their intentions are well-rooted in personal experience, and that their original ideas have manifested into a successful system that gives bands a little more security while on the road.
The bands themselves hail from all over.
Some Dad’s Garage local regulars are Debris, an MTSU student hardcore four-piece that Jarrett plays drums for, Clay Cages, a post-rock outfit consisting of five MTSU juniors including Dad’s resident Schumacher, and Bogues, Gruenewald’s solo alternative emo project. Additionally, bands from Nashville circulate through pretty regularly.
Touring bands have come to Dad’s Garage from Virginia, Ohio, New York and Wisconsin, just to name a few places. People such as pop punk up-and-comers Everyone Leaves have stopped through time and time again. Notably, The Nightmare Police, Human After All, Save Face, Modern Language and Post Modern are a few of the bands that have come to play shows.
This makes Dad’s Garage a truly remarkable place. Like anywhere, what makes people want to come back are the people that inhabit the space.
There have been shows where over 100 college-aged kids filled up a tiny living room, pouring into the hallway and out the door. Some of the shows played have resulted in mosh pits, crowd surfing and broken windows while others feature the audience sitting on the floor for a quieter, acoustic performance. Every single show has an impressive turnout.
Though primarily punk or hardcore bands are booked, there are no limitations to the genres or types of artists that play. Dad’s Garage allows artistic expression for every type of performance and creates an intimacy between the listeners and musicians.
What is most important are the connections established.
The efforts made to form connections are eventually reciprocated back to the guys at Dad’s Garage. Because of their hospitality, they establish solid contacts all around America, which is particularly useful when going out on a D.I.Y. tour.
“We were very fortunate to have a house where we can throw shows so that we can make a lot of friends, because those are friends are gonna be … a lot of the time, people we can reach out to in the future about putting on a show wherever their hometown is,” Gruenewald said when discussing his recent tour through the Southeast. “On top of that, when we go out on the road, we’re making friends, just meeting people at shows. That’s all it is.”
Suffice to say, this is the perfect example of fluid networking in the music industry. The spirit of Dad’s Garage goes beyond the Murfreesboro living room and out into the real world.
“The fact that we have bands from all over the country just coming into play at the house kind of makes it a little bit too easy, you know. We just have to talk to them and be nice,” Gruenewald commented.
If a northern band can sell a CD to someone in Tennessee, the person that bought it will show it to their friends and spread that band’s message. This makes it easier for touring bands to get exposure and exposes the people who attend these shows to a wider variety of music than would normally be available to them. On a local level, it creates a bigger fan base for bands based in Murfreesboro and Nashville.
In the end, Gruenewald, Jarrett and everyone involved do all of this for one reason.
“[We’re] doing it because of music,” said Jarrett.
Dad’s Garage is quite a gem as far as live music venues go. If you live in the area, be sure to stop by for a show sometime and experience it for yourself.
If you are a local or touring band that is interested in playing a show here, you can message Flamingo Booking with your information.