PHOTO ILLUSTRATION ROBERT CONRADI THE WASHTENAW VOICE
The barn is rocking on a Wednesday evening as (left to right) Julian Butts, Tom Leone and Lorne Powell jam along with other members of the rock music group InkFlo.
Dreaming of being able to musically express himself as a kid and finally realizing it, Tom Leone had a vision.
That vision turned into helping others showcase their artistic talents, too. Leone, of Ann Arbor, offers just such an underground concert venue. Providing an opportunity for new bands to play in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, with eclectic party scenes to boot.
And all at his home, known around town as The Farmhouse.
Maybe you are in a band just starting out, and you’re finding it hard to find a place to showcase your newly acquired talents, other than your parents’ garage or nearby warehouse. Or perhaps you are not a musician, but love to listen to new bands and meet a great group of artistic people.
The Farmhouse has it all.
“When I was younger, I didn’t have a place to go express myself,” said Leone, 30, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the rock music group InkFlo, “and I wanted to make this a local place for any style of artistic musician to come showcase their talents for free.”
Amongst the wild turkeys, boars, deer and coyotes, an old rustic-looking, 19th-century farmhouse sits on 18 beautiful wooded acres, surrounding the property in a semicircle on Park Road just on the city’s west side. Six people live on the farm.
There are several surrounding buildings on the property, a bonfire area and a private disc golf course in the yard.
An L.A.-based production company filmed a horror flick on the property this summer. “It’s like a townie co-op, and we all work together with the chores, make big meals and help each other out with stuff,” said 35-year-old resident Tim Gacioch, professional disc golfer and lead singer and songwriter for the band Black Jack on Pluto.
Currently, the music concerts are seasonal, with The Farmhouse featuring one-to-two shows per month through November. But Leone wants this to be a year-round venue, and he is working on getting proper heating installed for the winter.
Leone said the stage/show area, a.k.a. the carriage house, is connected to the main house and featured a dirt floor until just two years ago. He found some redwood floor boards from the barn, laid a floor and built a stage and seating area. At first, the construction was just for his own band, giving it a place to practice. But then he realized its potential, and opened it up to other local musicians.
“It’s about creating a scene for everyone regardless of their music genre,” added Leone. “This is a house for artists.”
The concert shows average four to five bands in an evening, and the parties house around 100-200 people, with the June show this summer topping out at nine bands that played in front of more than 300 people.
“Everyone is really friendly and you feel comfortable here. It’s a great networking place,” said Laura Michalowski, 18, a Washtenaw Community College student majoring in auto body repair of Ann Arbor. “The June party, I stayed up until 8 a.m., but usually the parties die around 4 or 5 a.m.”
One of the regular bands, Dirty Third Street, won best hip-hop artist of 2009 in Current magazine. Other typical players are Tokyo Sexwhale, a local surf rock band, and M.C. Kolorblind, another hip-hop group.
“I really like the music, the diverse crowd, and the atmosphere, and that is why I go,” said Julia Sutton, 37, of Ann Arbor.
“I’m used to going to parties where there are all different ages of people; I even did that when I was younger,” added Sutton. The age range of people who attend the concerts can be anywhere from late teens to those in their 60s.
“I’d be happy to showcase musical talent from WCC,” said Leone, who is always on the lookout for interesting new acts to play at his venue.
According to Michalowski, even if a new band messes up while playing, no one gets booed. The bands like to receive feedback, and it is usually constructive.
“A friend of a friend is always there,” she added.
The next concert night, scheduled for Oct. 16, is an after party for the Michigan Cooperative Points Challenge disc golf tournament. The show will feature Dragon Wagon, a folk and bluegrass band, InkFlo, a rock band with elements of jazz, blues and reggae, Black Jack on Pluto, a band with an indie-rock sound and elements of folk and punk rock, and Illliterate, an Ypsilanti-based hip-hop group.
The last party in October, the day before Halloween, is a costume event with an Alice in Wonderland theme.
“I care about the land, I care about the people and I care about the vibe,” stated Josh McDurmon, 26, of Ann Arbor, promoter for InkFlo. McDurmon works down the street and often brings his 17-month-old daughter to hang out at the house and walk the land. “It’s like a family out at The Farmhouse, and the bands that come through are highly recognized artists. Besides local acts, we even have famous worldwide bands come through like Moe,” he added.
It’s a place for those with a vision who dream of expressing themselves through music.
For information on booking a band at the Farmhouse, email: