Kansas City Man Turns Backyard Into ‘Extraordinary Jam Session’ For Musicians And Fans During COVID | KCUR 89.3
The afternoon sun shines through the trees on an uneven lawn in the historic Northeast. People are coming carry lawn chairs while a band on stage completes a soundcheck. A concert is about to begin.
The courtyard is distinctive thanks to three rustic houses built from reclaimed materials. They are the work of Roger MacBride, the sculptor and artist who lives here.
“It’s like an amazing jam session,” MacBride said with a warm laugh.
MacBride calls it the Raj Ma Hall. He says this place is his greatest work of art. When COVID-19 closed indoor concerts last year, it opened its garden to musicians who were scheduled to perform outside.
“We’ve already built in security,” says MacBride. “We are not stupid. We’re still having a good time. You just have to be careful.
MacBride limits the audience at Raj Ma Hall to 65 for security reasons. His experience as a former Navy medic has taught him that you can never let your guard down during a pandemic.
“The first round was never going to get you, it’s always the mutations you have to worry about,” MacBride says. “You know, if you can’t figure that out, well. “
“The sound is really good here,” says jazz singer Erin Keller. “Pretty funny. I’m still figuring out why.
Keller helps MacBride organize events.
“Roger had this vision of having seats in his yard under those beautiful trees, but he didn’t know how to create the tickets and the online presence, create social media and have a website and everything in between,” Keller explains. . “So I created the tickets. And before you know it, we had shows.
Now they’ve booked concerts until October and plan to start again in the spring.
Keller says the space has an original charm.
“Once the show starts, there’s just that kind of magical thing that happens because that vibe is just too real,” Keller says. “And, there’s a duck walking around and eating people’s fries. It’s just magic. It’s such a good afternoon. You know, I spent a few hours on the internet during the week so that I could have the sickest shot every weekend, and it has worked really well so far.
Having safe places to play music has given local musicians like trombonist Trevor Turla a lifeline.
“Here was a place where you could come and watch a show and socialize,” says Turla. “And, you know, that’s what made musicians survive. Truly.”
Keller says the people of Kansas City adapt to tough situations.
“I have stage 4 colon cancer and he’s a disabled veteran,” Keller says. “Even though we have to deal with illness and physical challenges on a regular basis, we are still able to create this magical space.”
“I just hope this inspires people who might be in the same position that you might be surprised at what you can accomplish if you just team up with someone else,” Keller continues.
Spaces like these are also important to the public.
“People come here looking for musicians,” Keller says. “When we created this atmosphere that was COVID safe, where the weather is nice outside, you are in the shade, you can see great music. People really responded because they understood that they really needed it in their life so that they wouldn’t lose their minds when the times were really tough.
For MacBride, hard times are an opportunity to bring people together.
“I always come from ‘for the greater good’ and I live by it,” MacBride. “We try to do a lot of good for everyone. Like – share. It’s a lot more fun to share.
Erin Keller and Matt Carrillo perform on August 28 at 4:00 p.m. at Raj Ma Hall 2829 E. 7th St. Kansas City, Missouri.