Vandaveer: Living room tour, and grilled cheese

by Jared Curtis

There are many ways to draw a crowd to your show, but what about bringing the show to the crowd instead? That’s what Mark Charles Heidinger, aka Vandaveer, is doing as he embarks on his “Living Room” tour, where the band performs in – you guessed it – a living room.
“We’ve been playing more house concerts the past few years here and there and realized an entire tour of such shows would be a lovely thing. Turns out other folks think so, too,” Heidinger said.
You’d think the logistics of a tour based around playing in living rooms would be tough to line up, and you’re right, but Heidinger said there are plenty of fans looking for an intimate experience like no other.
“Really it’s about finding hosts who are keen on opening their homes to musicians and a crowd of strangers for a night of songs. It takes all kinds,” he laughed. “There’s something very satisfying about playing songs without any amplification or sound reinforcement. You really just rely on the walls to bounce the sound around. Most nights you feel like you’re a part of a little community, if just for a little while.”
Since Vandaveer’s creation in 2007, Heidinger has brought in a rotating cast of musicians to fill out the sound.
“We have an open door policy. Folks come in. Folks go out. We’re prone to shape shifting, you see,” he said.
Although the artists involved have changed over the years, the current touring trio — including Heidinger, Rose Guerin and J. Tom Hnatow — has become a stable group.
“Rosie is with me all the time now and J. Tom Hnatow has been with us for more than a year now, so we’re really becoming a tight unit,” he said. “Rosie is a fabulous singer. She’s been that way since I met her, back in 2006. We started singing together in DC around the time my first record, Grace & Speed, was released and we’ve been at it ever since.”
Vandaveer’s most recent release, 2013’s Oh, Willie Please, is a concept album dealing with “murder ballads.”
“That record was an idea we’d been kicking around for a while. We all love those old folk songs. Rosie grew up singing a lot of them with her uncle, Jim Kweskin. So to her they were like family hymns,” Heidinger said. “I found my way into folk music a bit later, through gateway artists like Dylan, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, etc. Those stories endure, and the melodies are too enjoyable not to sing.”
Recording Oh, Willie Please was an extremely unique experience.
“We set up camp in a 200-year-old house on a horse farm. Basically tracked the whole thing live, together in one room,” he said. “We brought in a good friend from North Carolina on banjo who really opened up the arrangement possibilities.”
The trio has been working a new album, but Heidinger is still working out the details for its release.
“We’ve got a new record in the can, and we’re sorting out just how, where and when it will be released. One of these days,” he chuckled.
With Vandaveer on its “Living Room” tour, locals can see them live in James Hardesty’s “living room” at The Green Frog on Monday, April 14.
“We played The Green Frog last fall with our buddy, Joe Pug. James insisted that we come back under penalty of ruthless name calling and prolonged online bullying,” Heidinger said. “He’s an affable, friendly guy, and we just didn’t want to see his bad side. Plus, those grilled cheese sandwiches. Man, those grilled cheese sandwiches!” vandaveer-photo-by-sarah-law