When San Francisco promoter KC Turner moved to the Bay Area from Missouri to work at Birkenstock in 2005 he didn’t know how his life would unfold. He just knew he liked music, playing guitar and writing songs. He soon moved to Novato and often drove to San Francisco or Petaluma to play open mic nights. When Finnegan’s Marin opened right down the street, he asked the owner about starting an open mic night a little closer to home, to which the owner responded, “How about next Monday?” And just like that, Turner’s life path came into focus.
“It was kind of my 10,000 hours to learn how to organize and introduce artists in front of an audience, run sound, promote, the whole gamut, and in a very small setting,” Turner says, adding that attending a living room show in Sausalito sealed the deal. “I was just blown away by the concept and the experience of hearing this amazing performer in a living room with no amplification. It kind of melted my face off.”
And so Turner refined the concept and began promoting artists, booking his Cookout Concert Series at Novato’s HopMonk and running his successful KC Turner Presents series of living room concerts featuring top-name and under-the-radar talent.
Then the pandemic hit and Turner saw all aspects of his business undergo a total shutdown. “Watching all that work literally vanish with nothing you can do about it made me sad and depressed,” he says with a laugh. And then musician Megan Slankard mentioned seeing something about people in Italy doing outdoor, socially distanced shows and, after some percolating, Turner decided to give it a try — using strict Covid-19 protocols and a hard limit of 20 guests.
With the artists in tow, his Bose PA system and some lights, Turner put on 35 shows last fall — sometimes two or three a day. This spring, he’s expanded the performance time to 75 minutes and offers fans the chance to, for a flat fee, have artists like John Doe of X, the Mother Hips, Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Megan Slankard, David Lowery of Cracker and many more play in their driveway or backyard — you pick the time and the guests you want to invite.
“We had everything from just people in tears, because they were so happy to see a songwriter play at their home, to people laughing uncontrollably. It meant so much to them to have that 75 minutes of forgetting that the world’s on fire,” Turner says. “And also, for the artists, it just really reminded a lot of them why they do what they do.”
“It was a dream to see live music again. And being in the backyard with friends felt almost normal for a moment,” says Lauren Garner of Novato, who booked G. Love for a backyard show. “Having one of my favorite artists at my home was surreal — an unforgettable experience.”
Turner says that after this series of spring shows — he’s already booked 87 of them — he will go back to his regular duties as promoter and booker, so this opportunity is unique. One interested John Doe and X fan told Turner he has been following the punk band since 1979 but was on the fence about booking a show. Turner told the man, “I’m going to respect whatever decision you make. But I will tell you this: John Doe will never play your driveway again — he’s not touring now; he’s got the time.” The man got right back to Turner: “You’re right. Let’s do it!”