The Avondale Concert Venue You’ve Never Heard Of
Several rows of mismatched lawn chairs line Axel and Susan Barron’s backyard on a balmy Saturday night in Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood. Shaded by a towering oak tree estimated to be more than 100 years old, the chairs face a humble wooden shed adorned with a hodgepodge of decor. By ordinary measures, the scene doesn’t resemble a typical concert venue. There’s no complicated speaker system, and the only bar in sight is the one in the couple’s kitchen, which is covered corner to corner in take-out tacos that they plan to share with their guests.
However, the unassuming space has welcomed countless musicians from across the globe for the past six years. The Shed Series, Axel explains, is his and Susan’s way of opening their home to quality musicians who would rather play for a small attentive audience than a large, noisy crowd.
“It’s just a better way to listen to music,” says Axel, who used to entertain the idea of becoming a musician himself.
The Shed Series is a part of a larger network known as Concerts in Your Home. As hosts, Axel and Susan invite traveling musicians to come play in their backyard once a month from April through October. By word of mouth — or receiving a personal invitation from Axel himself — locals are invited to come enjoy the show, which is BYOB and boasts a “come as you are” kind of vibe.
As it suggests, the name for The Shed Series comes from the simple fact that artists perform from a shed porch that doubles as a stage. As far as Axel knows, the shed has been there since the house was built — maybe even before. The story of how he and Susan stumbled upon the home and its enchanting backyard, Axel says, is one that he likes to tell often.
“We had been out drinking all night, and I saw the house out of the corner of my eye, and it said ‘for sale by owner,’” Axel recalls with a grin. “So I called and the homeowner answered and said ‘come on over. I just opened a bottle of wine. I’ll show you around.’”
Three bottles of wine later, the couple left with a signed napkin and a new house. Waking up the next day, Axel says, he and Susan were still swooned by their spontaneous purchase.
“I would say, at the very least, it’s 120 years old,” Axel says of the shed, which, when traveling musicians aren’t hauling their instruments through it, serves as Axel’s personal man cave.
Since its inception, The Shed Series has welcomed a wide range of musical acts. Most artists who play The Shed Series, Axel says, aren’t from Alabama and likely won’t ever be played on the radio. But that’s the beauty of it.
“In the six years we’ve been doing this, not a single artist is commercially recognizable. Not one,” he says. “And a lot of them still aren’t. But that’s the thing that makes it unique. It’s a listening experience. It’s a sort of passion show. You’re coming to see what these people do for a living.”
So far this year, The Shed Series has welcomed a wide range of artists spanning several genres. From Canadian girl-guy bands to internationally known finger-style guitar pickers, The Shed Series doesn’t discriminate when it comes to quality music. As long as artists have the talent and something to say, they’ll have a spot on the shed’s stage, Axel says.
“It’ll be sad if we move and have to sell this house because we wouldn’t be able to reproduce this anywhere else,” he adds.
And while some Shed Series concerts might see a packed backyard and others might only consist of a handful of people crowded inside the couple’s living room (The Shed Series goes on — rain or shine), every show is one that listeners will likely never forget, Axel says.
“And we want it to stay that way,” he adds. “So tell your friends about us — but only the cool ones.”