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Peggy's Place is a concert venue hidden in a quiet residential neighborhood just south of Davie Boulevard near I-95 in Fort Lauderdale. Actually, Peggy's Place is Peggy Tibke's house -- 2232 SW 15th St., to be exact. It's a modest affair with a spacious back yard that can accommodate about 40 people quite comfortably.
It's a recent Wednesday night, and the price is $8 to see Christopher Williams, a Massachusetts-based folksinger who's in town to compete in the South Florida Folk Festival. By 7 p.m. about twenty people are chatting in Tibke's living room, many of them drinking coffee they purchased at the "concession stand" (a dining table with help-yourself mugs and a wicker basket containing a few dollar bills). At about 7:20 Tibke blinks the house lights, and the audience members make their way into the back yard.
Tibke is one of a handful of people in South Florida who hold "house concerts" that showcase touring folksingers. It's not exactly legal, but it's not illegal, either. Tibke doesn't sell alcohol and asks only for "donations" from those in attendance. So far, neither the fire marshal nor the police have bothered her. "If somebody wants to arrest me for having a folksinger in my back yard," she says, "I don't know that I would mind that kind of publicity."
Tibke isn't turning a profit. After recouping the cost of renting chairs and printing fliers, she gives the rest of the night's "sales" to the performer.
"I'm not playing the martyr," she says, "but if I took an agent's percentage, there wouldn't be enough money in it for the artist. If I had an actual venue, it might be a different story, and maybe it would pay for itself in terms of the time I put in. But at this point, I'm doing it because I love it."
When Williams agreed to do this concert, he had no idea how many people would show up or how much money he would make. "I'm looking at it as a way to make some extra money," he says, "and maybe sell a few extra CDs and get a few more people on my mailing list."
Peggy's Place is no hip hot spot, but that's exactly the point. It's an alternative to those smoky bars or loud cafes where performers "take a back seat to the cappuccino machine," as Tibke puts it. Indeed, when Williams sings the only sound he competes with is the faint whisper of traffic on I-95.
Tibke says her neighbors have yet to complain about her concerts. "I didn't even know she was having one," says the guy at 2248. "I think I usually have my stereo up louder than her concerts."
On this cool, moonless night, Williams is lit only by a half-dozen tiki torches placed around the back yard. After a couple of lively songs, he adjusts the knobs on his amplifier and asks the audience if the sound is all right. He explains, "Usually, when you do a sound check, when all the people come into the room, the sound changes."
One audience member pipes up, "It's a big room."
Upcoming house concerts in the South Florida area include the nationally known folksingers Sheryl Wheeler, Cliff Eberhardt, and Richard Shindell. Call Peggy Tibke at 954-583-8543 for more information.