By Benjamin Whitener
Staff reporter

“It’s what my music was designed for.” These words from finger-style guitar player Brian Henke are used to describe Hat Creek Home Concerts.

Hat Creek is the brain child of Piper and Mark Bowling. They were inspired by a performance that Piper did at a small venue known as the Iron Horse in El Dorado. They had the idea earlier this year to create their own small venue. The Hat Creek name came from a sign that they had with the words “Hat Creek Livery” on it. The concerts take place in the Bowling’s own living room at their house on 133 Highland Drive, Arkansas City.  On the day of the concert, the living room is transformed into a small concert hall similar to a black box theater where everyone is on the same level with the performer. The concerts usually have 15 to 20 audience members and have had up to 50 or more.

Hat Creek opened with the first concert in March. There have been nine concerts since then and they usually happen at least once a month. Henke, who is from Ohio, performed many of his original works in concert Sept. 13.

Henke and Piper came to similar conclusions about the perks of a small venue. Intimacy appeared to be a common factor. Piper said, “You’re put 10 feet away from somebody where you can hear them breathe.”

At the concerts, members of the audience can interact more with the artist than they can with larger venues like arenas.  Henke said, “Everyone seemed like friends.”

Sometimes people stay around for an impromptu jam session with the performers and other audience members. After attending Henke’s concert, Amy Dunlap, Arkansas City resident, stayed for the jam session. Dunlap said, “I haven’t been that musically inspired since I started college.”

So far the concerts have featured mainly acoustic and folk style music. In order to not get “pigeon-holed” as Piper put it, more diverse artists are being added to the schedule. Future shows will include new age country, alternative rock and Christian artists. Performers from all over the United States and even the world have signed on to perform in a Hat Creek concert. Many of the artists hear about the venue from other artists who have performed or from the Hat Creek myspace page.

The next concert is set for Oct. 4 and will feature Australian guitarist Nick Charles. Charles found out about Hat Creek from his friends that have performed there. He has played many times throughout Kansas and will be playing at Hat Creek during a string of Kansas shows. Charles plays many different styles including blues, jazz and folk. Charles has a personal reason for playing the small venue. Charles said, “There’s nothing quite like the intimate audience at a house concert. The people are close up, the music and response is immediate and the audience really feels a connection to the artist.”

The concerts are open to all people who love music and enjoy the intimate setting. There is a suggested donation of $15 dollars for the artists. To see a schedule of upcoming concerts go to myspace.com/hatcreekhomeconcerts.

Benjamin Whitener is a junior majoring in digital art. You may e-mail him at benjamin.whitener@sckans.edu.