Picture this: It’s a warm summer evening in the Conejo Valley and you’re watching original live music performed by local and touring bluegrass, indie, and Americana acts in rustic surroundings under giant oak trees in an outdoor amphitheater. Oh, and the whole evening is free.
Original live music in the Conejo Valley is precisely what business partners Janna Williams and Mike Corridori envisioned when they dreamed up the nonprofit Tiny Porch Concerts series, with the important added bonus of a partnership with the National Parks Service, Williams says.
The five-concert series, now in its second year, will run monthly from May through September in the serene outdoor space of the iconic Peter Strauss Ranch, operated by the National Park Service, in Agoura Hills. The 2017 concerts kick off with a double bill of Los Angeles-based Americana band Rose’s Pawn Shop and country duo Pretty Polly on May 14.
That will be followed by Kuinka with Steps of Doe on June 11, Moonsville Collective with Feisty Heart on July 9, Sam Outlaw with Lydia Luce on Aug. 20 and The Way Down Wanderers with Which Country? featuring Lenny Goldsmith on Sept. 9.
“Maybe not everyone loves our niche, some people listen to more rock or pop, but we’re still going to stay true to our vision of original live music,” says Williams.
Williams, who lives in Westlake Village after a stint in Ventura, and Corridori of Calabasas, met a few years back and instantly clicked. Corridori, who owns CR Print, began the publication Conejo365 three years ago. As its managing editor, Williams (who is also a long-practicing aesthetician) helped launch the events and entertainment guide. Their next project together became Tiny Porch Concerts, which grew from a shared love of live music and got its name from the NPR series Tiny Desk Concerts.
The goal was to bring working musicians — the kinds of bands the two music enthusiasts often drove to Los Angeles to see — to the Conejo Valley. They made Tiny Porch Concerts a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (they’ll be bringing on a full board soon) and started the concert series with the National Park Service last year at Peter Strauss Ranch.
“Mike and I go to a lot of concerts,” Williams says. “Probably over the past three years I’ve been to over 200 concerts. We love original live music. In the Conejo Valley there’s the concerts in the park, which is great, but they tend to be more cover bands. So we decided to bring more music to our area.”
While the majority of their shows are now out at the ranch, there has been so much interest from bands across the country following last year’s successful first run, the duo is also booking other local venues, including a new restaurant that opened in December called Treehouse Tavern. “We’re really trying to have more venues for bands touring through,” says Williams. “That’s the next direction we’re going.”
But the main draw is still the series of five summer evenings in the park. The outdoor amphitheater comfortably holds 600 people, but there’s space above for picnics, and other areas from which to watch on the expansive ranch property. The park itself can handle a thousand wandering friends and families.
There are offerings before, during and after each of the concerts, including five different artist installations and a Guitar Center-sponsored “instrument petting zoo,” with guitars, ukuleles and cajons (a box-shaped percussive instrument). The ranch itself has just been remodeled, and the National Park Service will be leading hikes around the area. In addition, there’s Cornell Winery and Tasting Room right across the street, offering wine tasting and cheese before and after.
VIP and donation opportunities are available for each event, though the general admission is free. Proceeds go to the artists and to the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, which contributes to the local national parks and projects such as the wildlife crossing overpass on the 101 freeway near Liberty Canyon.
Williams has a simple message for potential attendees: “Come early, explore the ranch. And families are encouraged!”
The 2017 Tiny Porch Concerts series kicks off with Rose’s Pawn Shop and Pretty Polly on Sunday, May 14, at 5 p.m. at the Peter Strauss Ranch, 30000 Mulholland Highway, Agoura Hills. For more information, visit www.TinyPorchConcerts.com.