On a Saturday afternoon in the listening room at Steve’s Live Music in Sandy Springs, members and friends of the Awalim Dance Company are gathered for lunch and a slide show on the history of belly dancing.
Meanwhile, in a practice area across the lobby, a group of Irish musicians, ranging from teens to seniors, is tuning up on fiddle, banjo, accordion, bodhrán and tin whistle. A few minutes later the dancers finish up and the musicians form a circle of chairs in the room and launch into a session of jaunty jigs and reels.
Later in the evening, the Awalim group will be back for a Turkish-meets-African dance showcase, followed by a live music show.
All in a typical day, said Steve Grossman, who opened his namesake music venue in June 2012, and since has been busy booking it seven nights a week and many days.
“I had 500 musicians here the first year,” Grossman said. “Many times, we do three shows in a day, so that’s a lot. But I’m having the time of my life.”
Other than being a fan, Grossman, who is 58 and lives in Sandy Springs with his wife and two sons, had no experience in the music business. But inspired by listening rooms like Eddie’s Attic in Decatur and Red Light Cafe in Midtown, he decided to make the leap after retiring from an international financial analyst job at UPS.
“I have a real love for music. It’s as simple as that,” Grossman said. “I retired from UPS and thought I had another 10 years of something in me. I wanted to work hard doing something meaningful. And this journey is definitely fun. You never know what will happen from night to night.”
A year into the journey, other music fans are applauding Grossman by filling up the 110 seats at Steve’s. And more musicians are calling for bookings, as word spreads about the intimate atmosphere and acoustics.
Located on Hilderbrand Drive, barely a block from busy Roswell Road, the free-standing building originally was a house built in 1940 before becoming home to a series of businesses, including an antiques store and several restaurants.
Grossman put in a full bar, with beer, wine and spirits, and the kitchen serves everything from starters and small plates to entrees and dessert. Because he’s a pescetarian, there’s plenty of fish and veggies on the menu, but no meat.
“It’s something I believe in and practice, so I didn’t want to be a hypocrite in my business,” he said. “I keep kosher, too.”
When it comes to music, though, Grossman has very few rules.
“There’s nothing I wouldn’t have here, as long as it’s original and good,” he said. “Eddie’s was certainly an inspiration. But I probably have a little more eclectic programing. Singer-songwriters are really important to me. I want to have a real listening room for them. But not make it exclusively a listening room every night. Some nights we’re going to have blues or rock with more of a bar atmosphere.”
On Mondays, Steve’s holds an open mic night. But it’s not a contest, Grossman said, because he wants to create a nurturing atmosphere for young songwriters. Tuesdays, it’s bluegrass and old time music. Wednesdays feature a songwriter’s showcase. Thursdays, it’s blues. Weekends are usually reserved for better known local, national and international musicians, with jazz on Sundays.
Right now, Grossman is most excited about presenting international folk music, like Atlanta’s Troika Balalaikas, and finding connections between Atlanta artists like renowned Russian domra player Angelina Galashenkova-Reed and country-bluegrass banjo virtuoso James McKinney.
“Atlanta needs more culture,” Grossman said. “I want to have even more international folk music, and eventually sponsor an international folk festival. I dream big. I have this dream that we’re going to have Celtic and bluegrass and folk and blues and jazz musicians here, and they’re going to meet each other and start doing some new things.”
234 Hilderbrand Drive, Sandy Springs. 404-418-6777.
Michelle Malone: 8 p.m. Friday, $12-$15
Irish session music: 3 p.m. Saturday, free
Jesse Tyler: 7 p.m. Saturday, $10-$12
Kris Youmans Band: 9 p.m. Saturday, $8-$10
Beatles tribute for stroke awareness: Noon Sunday, $10
Open mic: 7:30 p.m. Monday, $3
Bluegrass and hootenanny jam: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, $5
Rockaholics: 8 p.m. Aug. 1, $5
Granville Automatic: 7 p.m. Aug. 2, $10-$12
Heaven Davis: 9 p.m. Aug. 2, $10-$15
MORE ATLANTA LISTENING ROOMS
Common Grounds Coffee House. Concerts at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on the fourth Saturday of each month at Unitarian Universalist Metro Atlanta North, 11420 Crabapple Road, Roswell. 770-992-3949.
Eddie’s Attic. 515-B North McDonough St., Decatur. 404-377-4976.
Eddie Owen Presents at Red Clay Theatre. 3116 Main St., Duluth. 404-478-2749.
Fiddler’s Green Coffeehouse. Concert presented by Atlanta Area Friends of Folk Music at 8 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month at Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta, 3155 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Scottdale. 404-373-8080.
Kavarna. 707 E. Lake Drive, Decatur. 404-371-1113.
Lena’s Place. Concerts at 8 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month at Central Congregational United Church of Christ, 2676 Clairmont Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-633-4505.
Red Light Cafe. 553 Amsterdam Ave., Atlanta. 404-874-7828.
Smith’s Olde Bar. 1578 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. 404-875-1522.
Variety Playhouse. 1099 Euclid Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-524-7354.
Zen Tea Atlanta Tea Room. 5356 Peachtree Road, Chamblee. 678-547-0877.
COMPILED BY HOWARD POUSNER