Live Concerts In New Jersey

There have been plenty of unforgettable moments for Doug Joswick at his friend Drew Eckmann’s house in Ringwood. But an incident last year strayed far from the norm: Joswick arrived at Eckmann’s house on Cupsaw Lake in need of the bathroom. On heading for the tiny downstairs loo, he encountered the actress Mary Louise Parker at an unguarded moment.

“I walked into her outside the bathroom,” says Joswick, a West Orange resident and music company executive.

Parker, like Joswick, had come to Eckmann’s for a concert. Eckmann is one of a handful of New Jersey homeowners—the numbers are murky—who regularly host what he calls “house parties” in their living rooms. Live @ Drew’s, the series Eckmann has been putting on in Ringwood since 1997, has drawn name artists such as Graham Parker, who has played 13 times, as well as Alejandro Escovedo, Kinky Friedman and Justin Townes Earle.

Eckmann, 56, pushes his couches aside about 10 times a year and welcomes artists to play—sometimes under a mirror ball, sometimes in front of two rows of metal folding chairs, 10 to a row. Guests have been known to travel from as far as California and Chicago, bringing food and drink to share—pizza and beer were plentiful at a recent show by singer/songwriter Jesse Malin. They typically pay $20 to attend, with all the proceeds going directly to the artist—standard operating procedure at house parties. Though he has squeezed more than 100 people (mostly standing) into his modest-sized home for certain shows, Eckmann prefers to max out his audiences at 60 to 65.

“That’s a nice number for us,” he says, adding that all guests must be invited.

If Live @ Drew’s is not quite big enough to attract Bruce Springsteen—among the artists Eckmann would most like to present—it has attracted media attention and a “gold circle” of about 25 regulars. Eckmann’s e-bulletin list has ballooned to roughly 1,300 from just a handful when he started. Last September, the New Yorker ran a preview of  Eckmann’s 100th show, which sold out at $100 per person. It was, according to Joswick, “a total leap of faith,” because Eckmann refused to divulge who would appear at the October 1 show. Rumors within the gold circle ranged from Ryan Adams to Green Day; in the end, the surprise attractions turned out to be rockabilly legend Robert Gordon, and Mitch Ryder of 1960s rock band Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.

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