At the Helm: 3 decades of musical bliss

By Scott Graves, Pilot staff writer July 09, 2011 12:32 am

 

Tonight, the Pistol River Friendship Hall will ring with the sounds of quality music when Rita Hosking performs with the band Cousin Jack at 8 p.m. – just as it has for nearly 30 years.

“After three decades, the essence of what we do remains the same: provide high quality touring artists in a first-rate, intimate venue,” said Les Stansell, who, with his wife Mary, founded in 1982 what would later become the nonprofit, member-based Pistol River Concert Association.

The very first concert featured regionally renowned classical guitarist Joseph Thompson. The association celebrated its 25th anniversary in July 2007 with a wine tasting and concert featuring Thompson, who lives in Ashland.

The styles of music played by dozens of touring artists include flamenco, bluegrass, country, blues, New Age, folk,  Indie rock and even Nigerian pop. 

The price per ticket: $15. Tickets are available at stores in Brookings and Gold Beach. Tickets can be reserved online at www.pistolriver.com. 

“We’re mostly an acoustic venue, we have no specific genre,” said Stansell.

The Pilot publishes a story about each concert, and often posts information, photos and videos of the featured bands on it’s music blog at www.coastalgrooves.com.

 

The music

Once a month, the 100-person capacity hall – located between Gold Beach and Brookings – showcases artists such as guitarist Ed Gerhard, banjo-player extraordinaire Tony Furtado, Los Angele’s Latin-based band Los Pingos, the acoustic Celtic group Molly’s Revenge, and veteran jazz guitarist George Cole.

“We have a full house for nearly every show,” Stansell said. “Half our audience is from Brookings but many people travel from outside the area to see an artist they’ve been following.”

The artists, he said, are often surprised by the quality of the hall and the crowd’s enthusiasm.

“Some of these artists play in big cities, at bigger venues, and get smaller crowds,” Stansell said. “When they see our remote location, they think, ‘Whoa, what have I gotten myself into?’ But then the curtain comes up, they see the audience, and it’s magic.”

The intimacy of the hall, its acoustics and the quality sound system weave a spell that is hard to resist, he said.

 

The volunteers 

Working offstage is a small, dedicated group of volunteers that make up the association. In addition to the shows, the group hosts community events and fundraising activities. A bin inside the entrance is used to collect canned food that is donated to a local battered women’s shelter.

As for the future, Stansell said, “We’re always looking for new people to join the group, the next generation to step up and keep things going.”

Annual memberships for the nonprofit organization are available for $15 per person or $20 per family. Membership includes advance notice of all future concerts and events via a monthly newsletter.

For more information visit www.pistolriver.com or call Les Stansell at 541-247-7636. The association also maintains a Facebook page, where organizers, artists and fans post messages and photos.