“This is really easy to do,” sound engineer Ryan Mach remembers his colleague Alex Proctor telling him during training at Icehouse. “Over to your left here, press record on every single show.”
Since the Minneapolis venue opened in 2012, Icehouse engineers have captured thousands (“probably in the ten thousands”) of hours of multi-tracked music recordings. At a minimum, Mach said, the recordings were available as a service to artists. “It was always just awesome to know,” he added, that “someday we can go back, look through the archives for whatever we want to do with all that music.”
Mach, who’s also a drummer (Har Mar Superstar, StoLyette, Fort Wilson Riot), has now culled 18 tracks from that mountain of music for Icehouse Live Series: Volume I. The live album is available on Bandcamp, with proceeds supporting live music programming at the Eat Street institution as it weathers the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is pretty overwhelming,” said Mach about the curation process. “Which Erik Koskinen show do you want? Which J.T. Bates projects do you want to include?” He aimed to include a broad range of genres, representing the wide range of artists who’ve graced the venue’s thrust stage. “Before lunch every day I’d listen to like two concerts, and just try to find a song that sounded like Icehouse, sounded like someone on stage was really in a moment.”
There’s more than enough material for more narrowly focused compilations, which may be in store for the future, said Mach: “Specific genres, or specific types of artists, or maybe just summer of 2017, if we decided that was the golden age.”
The musical trip down memory lane brought Mach back to some incredible sets he’d personally engineered. “The Dusty Heart [track] was from a pretty magical night,” he said. “It was Dusty Heart and BBGUN, they did a residency. I remember mixing most of the residency, and the Staves actually came up on stage that night.”
Listening to all that live music with venues largely shut down during the pandemic (Icehouse has hosted outdoor shows as weather and regulations permit, and is hosting livestreams) was “kind of emotional,” said Mach. “Being a musician, I’m impacted on that side too. We’re all starving…we’re missing this engine that drives our industry.”
As a venue, Mach describes Icehouse as “very musician-friendly.” It’s known as a musicians’ hangout, and has notably become a hub of the local jazz scene with midday, evening, and late-night shows providing opportunities for a range of fans to lend an ear — often grabbing a bite while they do so.
“It’s in a neighborhood. That’s pretty cool,” Mach added. “The booking, the ownership, it’s friendly people. I feel like it encourages experimentation; it’s very free. It’s not a metal club, it’s not just a jazz club, it’s not just hip-hop. You really feel you can play whatever you want on the stage. You’re going to see some friends there. The food’s always been good. It wears a lot of hats, and it wears a lot of hats well.”
In compiling the album, Mach said, he aimed to include both representative performances and special moments like “Hot Pink,” from a rare small-room set by Halloween, Alaska. “We tried to find the moments that are very classically Icehouse, but also some rare Icehouse moments too.”
Hear tracks from Icehouse Live Series: Volume I this Sunday, Jan. 17 on The Local Show.