It’s Friday night, and you have no plans. One of your friend’s decides you up and says that some chic new band is in town. Of course you’ve never heard of this band, but because you have nothing better to do you decide to venture out to see them. When you meet with your companion you notice that they’re carrying a twelve pack of some cheap beer. You remark that whatever venue you’re going to is definitely not going to allow someone enter while brazenly carrying a twelve pack. That’s when your friend says that you’re going to a house show.
To some of us the idea of a concert inside a home elicits a sense of queasiness. Cramming into someone’s living room while being subjected to all the problems of a twenty plus year old sound system isn’t the most pleasant experience. There is never the guarantee that the performers will be worthwhile, or if there will even be an adequate space to stand.
But there is something mystifying about the atmosphere of a house show. Having that secret handshake of being included is enthralling. Belonging to individuals who were deemed “hip” enough to attend a house show. That feeling is empowering, and fosters a communal attitude.
Some people, myself included, have had the pleasure of being privy to multiple house venues throughout Greensboro. Each home possesses its own brand of charm that compliments the bands that play there. Having been a part of several shows at the adrenaline and punk aesthetic fueled Tuba House, as well as supporting my friend’s indie projects at the cozy Blue House and fabled Hell-Raiser House, I can attest that there is always some touring band that manages to fit in the with the local regulars. There was even a place for the avant-garde at the now defunct TYP House, and the Karate Dungeon used to be the home of all things pop punk and power folk.
There’s a more intimate relationship that accompanies a house show. When you’re struggling to find a spot to stand in a densely packed room, chances are whoever is performing is also finding it difficult to find space. There also isn’t that confusing moment when you might make eye contact with that attractive drummer, but aren’t sure because the club lights are too bright.
For the performer, a house show offers a unique situation. If a show is sparsely attended at an actual concert venue, the performer not only has to endure the awkwardness of playing to a handful of people, but also the fact that the venue is most likely losing money on the show. In a house setting, a dozen people in a living room is going to seem much more packed than a dozen people at a theater, and the house doesn’t suffer from a lack of ticket and drink purchases. The small donation for admission goes directly to the performer’s pocket.
House shows are also immensely beneficial to touring artists. They are good for playing in towns where artists have fans, but can’t necessarily book shows due to factors like lack of venue flexibility. It is also cheaper for a performer to stay at the house they play at. This helps cut down on expenses to mainly gas and food.
Fran Snyder, himself a musician, developed a guide for putting on home concerts and today operates the website ConcertsInYourHome.com. This website helps link musicians with people who are willing to host concerts in their own, private abodes. Snyder’s list includes things such as a suggested donation amount, how to plan out a musician’s set and even to projected age range of people in attendance.
Snyder capitalizing on the idea of music in the home is nothing new. Composers of classical music have been doing this for centuries. Notable composers like Mozart, Schubert and Debussy wrote chamber music, which called for a smaller ensemble of players who performed at one musician to a part. This music was also directed at amateur musicians, as it was meant to be performed in their homes. These more intimate settings fostered music as a casual and social platform, elements that have been removed from the heavily formal connotations of classical music today.
Whether it be a punk show, a folk act or even an evening of classical works, experiencing music in a home setting offers multiple pleasantries. Being included in a vibrant community and getting drawn over by the indie DIY charm is a nice alternative to other options of how to spend an evening. As great as the handful of music venues in Greensboro are, a little more personal and intimate music experience is always welcomed.