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WEB concert reprise at Oten

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In a reprise of a popular music scene that suddenly went poof about a year-and-a-half ago, one of the original organizers of the WEB Coffeehouse will be staging a series of three performances at the Oten Gallery, across Xenia Avenue from its long-time home, the First Presbyterian Church. Danny Voris, who had performed country acoustic guitar at the old WEB, will open the series on Saturday, Aug. 9. He will be on stage from 8 to 11 p.m.

“I expect that he will perform solo, but he may bring along a member or two from his band, the Danny Voris Project,” said organizer Deborah Fugett in an interview last week.

A variety of local bands have been invited to perform on Aug. 30, and on Sept. 20, Ann and Phil Case will take the stage with their old timey tunes. Time permitting, there will also be an open mic after each show.

The WEB, the smoke, drug, and alcohol-free music venue that had been housed for nearly 10 years in the basement of the church, closed abruptly in March of 2007, reportedly due to issues over insurance.

Fugett was one of the founders of WEB, which stood for Women’s Enterprise Builders. She and others ran a cooperative association of female owned businesses located at 100 Corry Street, and thought it would be a good idea to sponsor an alcohol and smoke-free coffeehouse in the extra space they had. It ran at the Corry Street location for two years until the co-op broke up. At that point Fugett and Laurie Dreamspinner moved it to the Presbyterian church.

“We were a good tenant,” Fugett said in a News interview in April 2007. “For a decade we were respectful and peaceful. Most of the people in the church were supportive. We brought energy into the church.” She remembered that the best feature of WEB was that it was truly intergenerational.

Former Yellow Springs resident Charlie Peters ran the operation before he moved out west last year. In the process of passing it off to another local man, Les Groby, it was discovered that the coffeehouse did not have a liability policy of its own and that the church’s insurer would not cover it, according to Bill Blocker, chair of the church’s buildings and grounds committee.

Peters, reached by telephone at his home on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, said musicians liked the WEB, because the audience listened better than they do at other venues. There weren’t the distractions of people talking and the clinking of glasses, he said. And it was gratifying for the musicians to get “a standing ovation from an audience of just 10” at the WEB.

“It was the kind of place where the musicians and the audience talked to each other,” Groby said.

A lot of local bands got their start there, Peters said. It was an opportunity for them to take a chance in front of a friendly audience. Some of them went on to bigger things.

Among the acts, beside Voris, who list WEB Coffeehouse in their past venues are Heartstrings, Magnolia Bolthead, Doctor Skillett, Dave Schumacher, Dawn Cooksey, the Corn Daddies, Paul’s Apartment, and numerous local high school garage bands.

“When I moved here in 1979 there was music in the Oten Gallery,” Fugett said. “People would gather for impromptu performances on a Friday or Saturday night.”

So she stopped in to check out the latest renovations and liked the space. When she told owner Alan Macbeth she thought it would be a good place to do some shows this summer, he agreed.

Is this just a reprise, or could it be the start of something big? Unfortunately, the Oten Gallery will not be available for the long haul, as Macbeth, who has owned the unique red brick building at 307 Xenia Avenue for “40-plus years” has invested heavily in kitchen renovations in the hope of attracting a restaurant to the space, which also houses the Asian Collection.

“If I had picked up on what was happening with the WEB Coffeehouse at the time, I would have offered the space back then,” Macbeth said in a recent interview.

Weather permitting, Macbeth said, the shows will be held outside in the gallery’s newly renovated garden. He plans to set up a small outdoor stage. If it rains, he has the space to move it inside.

Of the red brick building, which is somewhat of a Yellow Springs landmark, if only for its perennial renovations, Macbeth said he bought it when he moved to Yellow Springs after dropping out of Ohio State to become a working artist and run a gallery. When success eluded him on both those fronts, he made the building into his life-long work of art, he said. The gallery was named by his college roommate who was from from Nigeria. According to Macbeth, Oten means “setting up shop.”

There will be a suggested donation at the door and concessions, Fugett said, and she expects some of the WEB’s usual volunteers such as Yvonne Wingard and Dayna Foster to help out, “just like the old coffeehouse,” Fugett said. But she can always use more volunteers. The gate collection will go to the musicians first, and if anything is left over, some to Macbeth and some to a “coffeehouse fund,” Fugett said.

“This is not a fund raiser,” she said. “It’s just to have music in an alcohol free space. You might call it the ‘floating WEB’ or the ‘WEB on the road.’”

Groby looked for a suitable space for awhile after the WEB closed, and though he is no longer actively looking, he said recently that he would be willing to put more time into it.

“The place where we were was really unique,” he said. “It would be hard to duplicate.”

“I am doing this because I miss the WEB,” Fugett said.

To volunteer to help at any of the three WEB Coffeehouse events at the Oten, call Deborah Fugett at 767-1694.


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