DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Cash, connection: Coyle’s got the right mix

HE WORKS IN the woods; what he builds is community, with music as the floorboards.

For nine years now, Norm Johnson and the Concerts in the Woods series have brought a rippling stream of live music: folk singers, jazz, blues, country and Americana, all of it at no charge to the people who come to listen.

This is a gift of nourishment, a heaping serving freely given at the Laurel B. Johnson Community Center (no relation to Norm Johnson) at 923 Hazel Point Road.

That’s some 14 miles from Dabob Road, and a long way from anywhere.

For those who are coming in from the outside world, Johnson puts out signs along Dabob and Coyle Road, guiding us to the spot. Otherwise we might never know the place exists, much less find it.

This Saturday evening, a classic example of Johnson’s booking expertise arrives. Silver Lake 66, a duo specializing in rootsy guitar and vocal harmonies, will play at 7:30 p.m. And yes, admission is by donation.

When these concerts start, Johnson says, so does the magic. The moment the musicians step forward, the moment the listeners lock in: That’s the payoff for him.

There’s cash too, strictly for the musicians who’ve made the trek. People drop a lot of bills into the gallon jar by the stage — to the tune of $250 to $350 on a given night.

All of it goes to the performers. Some have told Johnson they took home more money from Coyle than they did from a gig at the Tractor Tavern, a folk mecca in Seattle.

Meantime Johnson, 70 and a retired chemist, does the planning, the sound mixing and the publicity for every show.

He and his wife, Sol, serve the musicians a meal. For the concertgoers, they purchase coffee and cookies to be laid out on the back table, free.

But Johnson doesn’t dwell on such things. He’d rather get back to that alchemical time when music makers and audience connect.

“It’s that two-way communication,” he says. “A live show depends so much on that.”

At Coyle’s center, “Everyone comes for one reason: to hear the music,” he adds. “It’s kind of time travel for the last 15 miles … you leave the rest of the world behind.”

Every spring Johnson makes the transition from matinees, which give people time to drive home before dark, to 7:30 p.m. concerts.

Throughout the summer, he and the musicians make the most of the evening light. The lineup includes New Zealand songstress Mel Parsons, recently featured at the Byron Bay Bluesfest, on May 27. Jazz and blues pianist-vocalist and Olympic Peninsula favorite Ted Brancato brings his trio — featuring bass man Chuck Deardorf and percussionist Mark Ivester — over on June 2.

The weekend preceding Independence Day promises something else again: Sunday, July 1, a group of musicians from Centrum’s Festival of American Fiddle Tunes will come from Port Townsend to play a square dance from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Johnson’s multifaceted website, www.CoyleConcerts.com, lists shows well into 2019.

Visitors also find out what else happens at the community center: a free, house-made hot lunch on Thursdays, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, games days with card and board games and the Jefferson County Library bookmobile a few times a month. See the calendar on Toandos.org.

The population of this spot is small, but the opportunities for connection plentiful. In this way, Coyle’s place is a model for community centers near and far.

_________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be June 6.

Reach her at [email protected]

More in Opinion

WEST END NEIGHBOR: It’s not just the park — it’s the people

LOOKING DOWN AT the ladder of the avalanche chute, it appeared the… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: A fresh look, in full color

IT HAPPENS WHEN least expected. A single still image beams me back… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The orca task force not to the rescue

THE VISCERAL SPECTACLE of the mother orca carrying her dead baby for… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: There are no do-overs with the orcas

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news. It’s bad enough enduring… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Stages of a Sasquatch sighting

THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA’S first Sasquatch Symposium, held last November at Studio Bob… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Live music dips toes into the crick

THE LAST FULL month of summer has come. Is there any way… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Top tourist questions

AS GOODWILL AMBASSADORS of the tourist industry, it is our civic duty… Continue reading

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Neighbors who help with the worst jobs

LAST WEEK I found myself at the bottom of a grave I… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Writing heroes with auras

I AWAITED MY heroes. For years I’ve hung on their words in… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Salmonberry deserving of honor

THERE’S NOTHING QUITE like the first salmonberry of the year. It is… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The horse fly menace

THIS IS A story about wilderness survival, told in hopes it will… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Olympic tourist troubles

WHETHER IT IS an effect of climate change, the economy or the… Continue reading