On a quiet cul-de-sac in Pasadena, N.L., a yellow home with a white covered veranda looks like any other, but sometimes when the sun goes down, it turns into a rocking live music venue. Jan Stephen has been living his dream for the past two years hosting live acts right out of his own home.
He calls it the Vinyl Garage, but don't be fooled into thinking this is some glorified shed party. In fact, it's not even a garage.
"This room, originally in the house plans, was supposed to be a car garage," said Stephen. "[But] instead of putting in a garage door at the front, they put in a bay window and turned it into a rec room."
On a concert night, Stephen takes great pride in being a good host. Often dressed in a concert T-shirt, black blazer and fedora, he wants people to enjoy the space as much as the concert and spends much of the shows making the homemade pizza he gives out for free.
A massive music lover himself, Stephen estimated he's been to around 60 concerts over the years, many of them blues and jazz festivals across the country. He said there's nothing like live music and is honoured to provide a space where others can watch an artist in action right in his own home.
"It's like a dream come true, really."
About a dozen artists have performed at the Vinyl Garage since it first opened. Many of them have been local talent looking for a small performance space. But the venue is catching on with touring artists like Nova Scotia's Christina Martin, who performed there this fall and most recently, St. John's artist Sherry Ryan as part of her cross-island tour.
The whole room is lined with an eclectic mix of art, antiques and music memorabilia. There are dozens of autographed albums on display including Newfoundland's TNT, blues singer Layla Zoe, and folk artist Arlo Guthrie. He even has a working 1959 British-made motorcycle displayed right in his kitchen.
Sprinkled throughout the venue are the many autographed photos of Stephen with his favourite musicians. It takes a lot of planning to add to this particular collection, including buying tickets to see the same artist two days in a row.
"I saw Colin James play in Corner Brook and got my picture taken with him," Stephen explained. "So I bought tickets [for the next night] and went to see him in Stephenville. I stopped in Walmart, got the picture printed and that's how I have signed pictures of Colin James."
But it's underneath an old black dial phone mounted to the wall that Jan Stephen's prize album is displayed: Ron Hynes's 1972 debut record Discovery.
"He was 17 or 18 when that album came out," he said beaming. "I bought it online and it happens to be signed."
Stephen is only too happy to talk about his collections or about concerts from the past but it's the concerts he'll see in the future, from right in his own home, that he's most excited about. Opening your home up to strangers is not everyone's cup of tea but he gets back so much from everyone who comes to the Vinyl Garage.
"It's just like a party that other people provide for me in my own home."
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