Chain of Fools: The bike shop venue is packed. Photo: Stephen Regenold
Brianna Lane is singing about “the book of love,” a song on a proverbial tome ostensibly made for friends and lovers past. Her voice projects over a crowd, 50 people on folding chairs then a few in back standing up with bike helmets on. Lane, a singer/songwriter who’s shared the stage with greats like Billy Bragg, plucks a banjo and leans forward to sing, rain jackets and logo’d bike jerseys the backdrop to a performance on an unlikely stage.
There’s a ukulele on a stand. Speakers, microphones, and two bikes flank the performance space, a step-up stage in the main room of Calhoun Cycle, a Minneapolis bike shop. “The customer is coming to pick that one up later,” Luke Breen, the shop owner, had said, pointing at a pannier-equipped bike while introducing Lane earlier in the night.
It’s 8 p.m. on a Thursday evening in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood. The venue is an independent bike shop, and the order of the evening is the debut of an experimental event series made to meld together music and bikes and the respective cultures of both.
Called the Tiny Bikeshop Concert Series, the concept was created with a goal to offer “free live music shows held in the world’s best bike shops.” Sponsored by Banjo Brothers International, a Minneapolis maker of messenger bags, packs and bike accessories, the series was built on the premise of local culture, bikes and music coming together as a natural fit.
“Music and bikes both elicit high passions in people,” said Mike Vanderscheuren, a founder of Banjo Brothers and the creator of the Tiny Bikeshop concept. He said the series, which hosts its second show in St. Paul in May, has the potential to go national within the year.
Vanderscheuren, a Minneapolis resident and a fixture in the local bike scene, came up with the concert series idea in February on his way to teach cross-country skiing lessons to kids. He was listening to NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concerts,” a show where musicians record live performances at the desk of ”All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen.
From that kernel, Vanderscheuren talked with his business partner at Banjo Brothers and people he knew in the local bike community. He soon roped in Breen of Calhoun Cycle and convinced a few area companies to give goods or services for the event, including Dunn Brothers, a coffee shop next door to Calhoun Cycle, and even Pabst Brewing Co., which donated 50 tallboy cans to the cause.
Lane, an up and coming Minnesota-based musician, was a perfect fit for the Tiny Bikeshop series’ debut. An unabashed cycling enthusiast, Lane has ridden thousands of miles on two wheels during bike-powered music trips.
Starting in 2007, Lane began pedaling off on multi-city concert tours. She hauls a banjo and her ukulele in a backpack, pedaling once from Milwaukee to Boston for a 12-show tour in 2009. “I suppose I’m making a statement, but that’s not what I set out to do,” Lane said. “My goals above all are good health, physically and mentally, and to feed my sense of adventure.”
Lane notes less money spent on gas and less environmental impact being further justification for her bike trips.
For the Minneapolis show last month, a bulk of the concertgoers rode bikes. Lane walked, as she lives close by, but she noted marveling at “the beautiful bike gear surrounding me and everyone else.”
On the stage, Lane plucked and sang in boots and a flower-print dress. The crowd clapped in rhythm, some singing along. Songs spanned from lighthearted to blue, Lane’s clear voice filling the room. “Go Brianna!” a fan shouted out.
The evening included music as well as much talk about bikes. As Lane’s set ended, groups gathered to talk gear or endurance racing over coffee and beer.
Calhoun Cycles’ Breen and Vanderscheuren of Banjo Brothers were thrilled with the turnout. More than 100 enthusiasts, bike and music alike, attended the debut show. “Great people and great culture!” Breen said.
Vanderscheuren is now planning the May Tiny Bikeshop event and looking at other cities and shops around the United States to let the concept grow. Said Vanderscheuren, “Bikes and music are a natural combination. Go into almost any bike shop and you see how important music is to people there, or for that matter in the greater cycling culture as a whole.”
For more information on the Tiny Bikeshop Concert Series, go to banjobrothers.com/banjo-blog.
Stephen Regenold writes about cycling, gear, and the outdoors at gearjunkie.com.