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No Shoes, No Problem

The Listening Room at NiaMoves might be the best live music venue you've never heard of.

Question: Besides being cinematic achievements that helped define pop culture for a generation, what do Total Recall, RoboCop, Beverly Hills Cop and Deliverance have in common?

Answer: Ronny Cox, who appeared in all four. One of his more famous lines from each:

"Those fuckin' mutants could always sniff us out." (Recall)

"What did you think? That you were an ordinary police officer?" (RoboCop)

"Is this the gentleman...who disabled an unmarked unit with a banana?" (Cop)

"Goddamn, you play a mean banjo." (Deliverance)

Question: Why does any of that matter?

Answer: Because right now, Ronny Cox — who, turns out, is as talented with a guitar in his hands as he is with a script — is plucking at the heartstrings of the 20 or so people currently inside The Listening Room at NiaMoves (508 Pecore) at a cozy Sunday-night show.

508 Pecore is most often referred to as Studio NiaMoves, a fitness and movement studio in the Heights; another location is at 3221 Houston Avenue. But two to four times a month, it transforms into The Listening Room, a modest live-music venue delivering intimate (and usually acoustic) performances from some of the finer touring acts around.

Actually, "transforms" might be describing the change a little overzealously.

It's a smallish space, with a capacity of about 140. There's not much inside besides some pictures on the wall and some cubbies for you to put your footwear in when you come inside. Yes, you do have to take them off.

So really, all they do is bring in a sound guy, set up some folding metal chairs, offer some pillows for anyone interested in sitting on the floor, and turn down the lights.

After that, the musicians, sitting close enough for you to walk up and punch them in the head if you decide such an action is necessary (please don't), get to work. And therein lies the appeal.

"It's like going to a concert in your living room," jokes regular attendee and former KLOL/The Buzz DJ David Sadof after the show. "If you had a really big living room," he adds with a laugh.

Really, that's all that goes on at these shows. You can do some cavorting beforehand on the patio outside, if you like. And you can hang around afterward and chat it up with the acts. But the bulk of the evening's importance rests within the 80-minute set each musician performs.

In a sly way to sidestep any licensing issues, alcohol is available for a donation — kinda like what Radiohead did with the pay-what-you-wish (including nothing) digital release of In Rainbows, except instead of an album with crappy compression you get a Heineken.

"I first came to see Alejandro Escovedo," says Val Metcalf, 57, who drives in from Sugar Land to see the shows. "I've seen Charlie Sexton, Ian Moore; I've discovered so much talent here. It's just so personal. Sometimes I'm squirming in my chair."

Tonight, Cox and his two cohorts, pianist/accordionist Radoslov Lorkovic and mandolinist/guitarist Karen Mal, have the room doing just that. The actor/musician's charisma could no doubt control a space two or three times this size with ease, so here he dominates.

Nearly everything Cox talks about between songs peels back a little bit of his veneer: How his father passed away before they could reconcile their differences; how his late wife, whom he met when he was 14, remains the only woman he's ever been on a date with; how he's just fine with that never, ever changing; how he's absolutely gaga for his granddaughter.

All of it endears him to the crowd.

The Listening Room is the type of setting that necessitates a certain amount of honesty from the performers, and tonight Cox, Mal and Lorkovic deliver. In fact, featured performers deliver most nights, according to regulars.

"We offer a different listening environment," says Corinne, who started TLR with her husband in 2008 and asked that her last name not be used. "Unlike a bar/restaurant, you can hear music without the usual bar background noises, bar chatter, etc.

"It's a respectful listening environment for both the artist and music fans."

It is. Just don't forget your shoes on the way out.
_____________________

LAST CALL

Peter Mulvey

Personal aside: Mrs. Nightfly was in tow for this show and, no kidding, was nearly moved to tears during one of Cox's songs. This is no small feat, considering she barely winced during the birthing of our twin sons. Anyhow, Milwaukee folk singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey will be performing this Friday at TLR. Tickets are $10, a steal considering they can sometimes reach upwards of $30. It's a good, cheap way to find out if you'll like what they're doing there. Go. Check Mulvey out online at www.petermulvey.com; advance tickets for this and every show are available at www.listeningroomhouston.com/a/.

 
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