It’s about four in the afternoon and the car is pulling up outside a lovely red brick house in North Georgia. We are welcomed inside by Jimmy and his wife Marie along with a comforting aroma of hot apple cider and pumpkin pie that drifts in from kitchen.
The living room is a medium-sized space, open plan to the kitchen, and full of every kind of chair, stool and sofa. There is just enough space at the end of the room to comfortably accommodate the equipment we begin bringing in from the car. It only takes a matter of minutes to start getting everything in place – this is a routine practiced many times over, which is kept deliberately simple.
There will be no special effects tonight, no expensive drinks or stranger on the door. There will be no tedious waiting in line for bathrooms, no noisy people at the bar, and no struggle to find a parking space. Tonight will be as close to home as it gets. This is the charm and ease of the House Concert.
It’s 7pm and guests start arriving, enjoying drinks and snacks, and having a good catch up with friends not seen for too long. Despite everyone’s busy lives filled with work, travel and family commitments, they are brought together for one evening through a shared passion for music. Everyone who can afford it puts a donation in the hat as they come in, to help keep the artist moving down the road.
By the time 8pm comes around it’s time for the music to begin. Sometimes the host of the concert will say something to welcome everyone to their home, show where artist donations can be left, and introduce the performer. But tonight Jimmy’s youngest son Patrick takes the lead and, although only 8 years old, confidently plays the part of compere.
The show is in two parts, around 45 minutes each, with a break in the middle to refresh drinks, stretch legs and perhaps wander over to check out the “pop-up music store” in the corner of room offering souvenirs of the event; posters, T-shirts, and CDs that are happily autographed at the end of the show.
And House Concert set lists are always a little different to the regular. In this relaxed environment newly written songs are tried for the first time, well known sing-along-classics get included, sometimes with an experimental twist, and time is always left between songs to talk. For a real conversation between musician and audience, including questions about how songs were created and sharing amusing stories from the road.
At the end of the evening when the music stops, the CDs are signed and the glasses are empty, for the performer there’s a warm feeling that your circle of friends has been increased by 25, or 40, or 90 or however many chairs were filled that night.
House concerts are a truly amazing way to enjoy live music, make new friends and be directly involved in helping to further the career of an independent artist. You don’t have to live in a mansion to host a house concert. They can be as small as 25 people in your front room to over a hundred spread out in your back garden.
I have toured all over the US and house concerts are so often the highlight of my travels. They have introduced me to some wonderful people who I now consider true friends. They have enabled me to have some amazing experiences; waking up overlooking the Puget Sound in Washington State, trying to waterski on a Michigan lake, and making it possible to afford to travel to Austin Texas to perform at SXSW.
If you love live music and would be interested in hosting a house concert, I urge you to go for it. All the information you’ll need, and more, can be found on my website www.callaghansongs.com/houseconcerts or on the Concerts In Your Home site, www.concertsinyourhome.com
It’s so simple, and so much fun. You’ll wonder why you never thought of it earlier.
See you at your house!