With all of the changes happening on the 400 block of West Main Avenue, Rick Singer Photography remains in the same location it’s occupied for 33 years. For the past decade or so, the studio has served double duty as a live music venue, and it’s the kind of space that imitates the loose but comfortable vibe of a spontaneous jam session in someone’s living room.
A show in Singer’s studio, however, is going to sound superior to one in your average parlor. He sets up the bands in his cyclorama, a concaved wall that’s typically used as a photographic backdrop but also functions as a makeshift stage in the corner of his studio. “What’s nice is that my studio has more room, and with this cyclorama, it’s a natural acoustical band shell,” Singer said. “It makes the instruments sound great, and the musicians love playing here.”
Singer, who performs with the rockabilly group Sidetrack and klezmer band Chutzpah, estimates he’s hosted more than 60 concerts over the past 10 years; the list includes notable names the Celtic Nots, Big Red Barn, Pearl Django and Men in the Making. Most of the artists Singer books are heavy on Americana – country, jazz, blues, folk – and Saturday night he welcomes the San Francisco bluegrass group the Kathy Kallick Band.
On May 16, Singer has scheduled a performance by the Spokane-based Celtic band Floating Crowbar, which Singer said will be returning from a brief sojourn in Ireland.
The building that has always housed Singer’s studio was sold late last year, and Dutch’s, the neighboring pawn shop that the Singer family owned for nearly a century, is long empty. (Singer’s brother Gary, who operated Dutch’s, died in February 2013.) Despite the new developments, Singer isn’t going anywhere, and he’s operating under a lease that doesn’t expire for another decade.
A photography studio might seem like an unlikely venue, but it really makes perfect sense as a small, intimate gathering for music fans, and Singer’s slogan-of-sorts – “Musicians so close, you can touch them” – speaks for itself.
“As a musician, you’d rather play for 50 people that love you than 400 people that could care less,” he said.