House Concert Craze

The future of entertainment is in your living room

| July / August 2005

We'll put the living-room table in the garage but keep the couch and chairs in here for seating,' my husband, Patrick, suggests. I nod and simultaneously imagine how the carpet dimples created by the table and chairs will soon share company with new impressions from a microphone stand and a drum kit. We are preparing to host our first house concert. It's hardly a new concept, but it's gaining momentum.

According to the do-it-yourself Web site, residential live shows are now taking place in 36 states as frequently as once a week before crowds of 30 to 125 guests. Besides appealing to fledgling artists, these private venues also appeal to well-known performers like Tim Easton, Jeff Tweedy, M Ward, and Lucinda Williams.

'I prefer playing at homes because there's no stage, so there's no distance between our audience and ourselves,' says Two Gallants' singer-songwriter Adam Stephens. 'It's cool because I'll be playing guitar and actually bumping into sweaty bodies and elbows right beside me.'

In addition to giving musicians a chance to perform close to a devoted listening audience, house concerts can yield higher profit margins than a traditional bar or club, especially for those who have more of an underground following. 'You definitely sell more CDs at a house concert than at a bar,' says Darren Schlappich, lead singer of Pennsylvania's alt-country outfit Frog Holler. 'Plus, at all the ones we've played, there's a potluck dinner beforehand, so you're eating and hanging out with the guests and then you play. The environment encourages people to support your music.'

'All of the performers like the better pay [compared with bars and clubs],' says Tom Yeager, who hosts a house concert series in Houston. 'They often make over $1,000 in donations here and have never taken less than $500.'

Motivated by the cozy atmosphere and financial rewards, Pat DiNizio organized a five-month, nationwide 'living-room tour' for his band, the Smithereens. Austin resident Paul E. Barker held some house concerts in the late '70s and early '80s, and was fortunate to host Lucinda Williams. Lizzie Wann of San Diego boasts, 'Tim Easton performed in the first year of our series.'