House Concerts

February 18, 2010

Last fall I had the opportunity to attend my first House Concert.  The idea of a house concert first crossed my attention a few years ago, while I was visiting the website of one of my favorite artists.  I noticed several upcoming show dates that said “solo house concerts”.  But it wasn’t until my friend, Jerry, in California, ever the calendar keeper of all good live music, told me in September, that he had just been to one!  So, I had to ask him ‘What the heck is a house concert?”

Well, the idea is that a host and artist agree on a day and a time when a concert-length performance can be offered before a select audience in the host’s HOME!  Then they arrive at some mutually agreeable fee that might also take into account lodging for a night or two. The price of admission is therefore determined by the number of listeners the host feels certain of attracting to the event, and whatever fee the audience members might be presumed to be willing to pay. All proceeds go to the artist, of course, and house-concert etiquette requires that all audience members pay, including the host.

The benefits, to all concerned, are obvious. For listeners, it’s a rare chance to see and hear some favorite musicians from literally a few feet away, as well as to meet them and perhaps gain new insights into their art. For performers, it’s a chance to make a little extra cash by filling in some blank days on the touring schedule, and to perform for a handpicked audience of real fans.

For listeners and performers alike, the house-concert experience provides a unique opportunity for music without disturbance—from waitresses, busboys, cash registers, pagers, cell phones, or the conversations of drunks or uninterested socialites. More important, there is no crappy sound system: Chances are, no one needs to use a microphone to be heard in your living room.  (See http://www.stereophile.com/artdudleylistening/listening_82/index.html)

Looking in the Seattle area, where I live, I found one.  It’s called the Firefly Concert Series, hosted by Jennifer Kallen -http://www.fireflyconcertseries.com/theconcert.html.

I contacted Jennifer as there was an upcoming show the next weekend.  She said there were only a few tickets left.  I swiftly contacted everyone I knew and found out that no one shared my excitement over the prospect of seeing real performers from 10 feet away in someone’s living room.  So, I went by myself.  I showed up the following Saturday with a bottle of wine, some veggies and some trepidation over going somewhere I’d never been before with a group of people I’d never met.  The idea is that everyone brings something for a pre-performance potluck.

The people were generally friendly and the venue and view were impeccable – West Seattle/Alki Beach area, right on Puget Sound.  The ‘stage’ was sitting in front of a picture window with the Sound and the Olympics directly behind them. Wow!  With the sun setting, our performers, Sweet Talk Radio, began their first set.  It was just a fantastic experience.  I sat in a folding chair in this woman’s living room, 2 rows back, 10 feet from the performers!  No microphone needed here!  I encourage you to check them out -http://www.sweettalkradio.com/.  They are a husband and wife team, featuring well crafted folk-pop songs with poignant moods and lyrics. I really enjoyed the first set, and was able to really talk and get to know them during the intermission.  I also bought their new CD and a T-shirt, which appropriately enough, feature three output tubes on the front.  This tube hound couldn’t resist THAT – how’d they know?

Anyway, House Concerts are held all over the country.  There are several websites that try to keep up with the ever-changing venues, like http://www.concertsinyourhome.com/.  Also try http://jrp-graphics.com/houseconcerts/resources.html.  You’re almost sure to find one near you.  They’re cheap, clean, fun and the sound quality and intimate experience can’t be beat!

Thanks for listening!