- Associated Press - Monday, August 4, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - When Kiki Schueler talks about what she wants, she sounds a bit like a squirrely kindergartner: She wants people to come over to her house and play.

A concert.

In her basement.

For free beer and food, not to mention a room for the night and a little cash to carry over until the next gig.

At 48, Schueler isn’t a kid looking for a playmate. By day, she’s a UW-Madison biochemistry research assistant, and most of the rest of the time she is one of the city’s busier concert impresarios. In a residential area just off East Washington Avenue, Kiki’s House of Righteous Music has become one of the city’s go-to places for intimate concerts of touring musicians, the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/UyAMtv ) reported.

Despite a name that sounds as if it should have a bright marquee, the venue is just the basement of Schueler’s small post-war home. A full house is 50 to 60 people who heard about the show from an email, a Facebook post or word of mouth. Schueler doesn’t know them all, and that’s just fine with her.

“People think it’s weird having a lot of people in my house that I don’t know,” Schueler said. “But I say, ‘Well, they’ve got to be cool, they like the same music I do.’”

Since 2005, Schueler has hosted 130 concerts in her basement. She makes no money at it - concert-goers are asked to pay a suggested donation that goes straight to the musicians. Through word of mouth among musicians she knows or by checking tour schedules of her favorite bands, she might catch someone looking for a gig on a night off.

“I’ll do a show any night of the week, except I try not to do them on Wednesdays because that’s my volleyball night,” she said.

For those wanting to go to the show, there’s availability on a first-come, first-served basis that people can nab by getting on an email list. By not selling tickets or by not making any money, Schueler says she can avoid any city licensing or the watchful eye of the music publishing companies that hound places where music is performed.

“That’s why I even hate to say a show is sold out because I don’t sell anything; I just say we’re full,” she said. “People make a reservation and they bring their own beer.”

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While house concerts - opening one’s home to a musician who gives an intimate show - aren’t an unusual concept, Schueler’s shows are notable both for their frequency and the level of talent that shows up. These aren’t acts that would pack the Kohl Center, but these aren’t people that generally play in basements, either.

“I’m not trying to get Neko Case to play at my house,” Schueler said. “I am trying to be realistic. And I’m all right with that.”

She might not get the indie darling to play in her basement, but Case’s backup singer and sidekick Kelly Hogan has been a frequent performer there. Two-and-a-half months before indie band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah played the Majestic, frontman Alec Ounsworth played in Schueler’s basement. A week before singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks was featured at the Marquette Waterfront Festival, he played in Schueler’s basement. She has a preference for singer-songwriters, the kind of acts that play smaller venues in general.

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