UConn Magazine: Nightclub Confidential

'People walked out of here beaming'

Matt Smith '92 manages what may be America's preeminent listening room.

Matt Smith '92 manages what may be America's preeminent listening room (Peter Morenus / UConn Photo).

Matt Smith ’92 (CLAS) was in trouble. He had a full house, it was approaching 9 p.m., and he still hadn’t heard from his headliner.

“This was before everyone had cell phones,” recalls Smith, “and it was a Friday night, so I couldn’t reach the guy’s manager.”

Smith told the opening act, a local guitar slinger named Mark Erelli, to stretch for as long as he could. But after an hour, Smith finally had to tell the packed room the feature performer was a no-show, and anybody who wanted would get a full refund. Only three did. The rest stayed for Erelli’s improvised second set, bought out all the merchandise he had (“He had to run to his car for more,” Smith says), and gave the lesser-known singer-songwriter a standing ovation and three encores — the last one performed unamplified, standing on a chair by the kitchen. Erelli has sold out shows at Cambridge’s Club Passim ever since.

“People walked out of here beaming,” says Smith, managing director of Passim, arguably America’s pre-eminent listening room — admittedly some might advocate for the iconic Bluebird Café in Nashville.

Read on for more.