Tempe music scene finds a home in Sideroom Sessions

A Tempe resident hosts intimate, acoustic shows in a spare room

Rooms filled with close friends and cheap pizza come a dime a dozen around ASU's Tempe campus. But in a side room at a house not far from campus, Dusty Winter offers something more: live music. 

The Sideroom Sessions, brainchild of founder and owner Dusty Winter, are intimate acoustic performances held in an extra room on the side of Winter’s house.

Winter grew up with a deep love for music, though he was never a musician himself. He said when he moved into his current house, he thought to start hosting live sessions in an empty room to perpetuate and contribute to the local music scene.

He hosted the first Sideroom Session in November 2017.

He said his original plan was to host a session similar to that of Audiotree Live, which records bands and posts the videos online. Later, however, he decided to take it one step further and throw a show where people in the community could gather, hang out and listen to music. 

"It's something unique and personable, you know, you're face to face with the band, you can connect to them, you can hold a conversation with them," Winter said.

He said he thinks it’s important to host bands for shows like this to get them out of their comfort zone.

“Not a lot of bands get the chance to perform something acoustically in front of people,” Winter said. “So I think it’s important to … challenge them with the music they’ve already mastered.”

Just Another Day, a Phoenix pop-punk band that performed a Sideroom Session in December of 2017, said the show was a great time and that they would do it again if they could.

Winter does what he can to make the bands feel at home. He even had snacks and some beer waiting for Just Another Day when they came for their session, said bassist and backup vocalist Carlos Franco.

“(Winter) himself is very welcoming,” Edgar Escalante, the drummer of the band, said. “He’s just a very good guy.”

Darwin Villena, the band’s lead guitarist, said the vibe of the show was the best part.

"It was just like hanging out with your friends and playing music," he said. "People were singing along and we were taking shots by the end of it.”

The lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the band, Kevin Barra, said the group doesn’t typically do acoustic shows and the change of pace was something different and exciting.

“It was just a really awesome vibe,” he said.

Franco said anyone who goes to a Sideroom Session should "sign the toilet" — a tradition at the relaxed sets.

"We just have Sharpies (in the bathroom), and whoever wants to sign or write on it should just go ahead and do it," Winter said. 

Jeffrey Libman, an assistant jazz professor at ASU's Herberger Institute for the Arts, said a local music scene and venues such as the Sideroom are important for driven local artists to share their craft.

"When you meet an eager, hardworking artist who's promoting themselves and putting themselves out there and putting their art out there, those are also some of the most talented ... artists," he said.

Libman said he "(didn't) know how much art and culture there will be if artists aren't willing to push their own work and be their own best advocates," given the booming state of the music industry.

Jude Poorten, a freshman in jazz performance at ASU's School of Music, said small local music venues "allow musicians to be heard.

"There's really something to the sense of community when there's a group that (you watch and) you know you're supporting your area," Poorten said, "It's almost like neighbors helping neighbors."


Reach the reporter at japere38@asu.edu or follow @jsphprzz on Twitter.

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