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House Concerts & Social Media: A Newb’s Perspective

April 14, 2009

Capitola house concert

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending, and getting to help out a bit with, a fantastic house concert in Capitola, CA, put on by my good friend and Monterey bass brotha Steve Uccello. The concert, which was arranged entirely via Twitter, featured Steve (@SteveUccello), bassist Gustaf Fjelstrom (@botched), singer/guitarist Aaron Ford, and guitarist Rob Michael w/ the Atmos Trio (@AtmosTrio), and really turned out to be one of the most enjoyable (and not to mention substantial!) “DIY-style” events I’ve ever participated in.

Going  back to my old punk days, I’ve always appreciated eliminating ‘the middle man’ as much as possible, especially when it comes to music – in effect, bringing musician and audience that much closer together – and to me, house concerts are really the epitome of this philosophy. Putting on an event this intimate can’t help but be a collaborative effort, and, the more work that goes into it by the greater number of people, the more satisfying the final result ends up being.

It was probably in this way more than any other that Twitter proved the most useful – not only was it the very means that the performers met by, but its open discussion format allowed for a kind of public involvement that wouldn’t have been possible in any other setting. For such a low-key concert, this one must’ve had more “media coverage” than any show I’ve ever seen (two video cameras, full track recording, several still cameras, and SUPER-regular Twitter updates, TwitPics, AudioBoos, etc), and most of it was done, totally voluntarily, by audience members. In fact, this was exactly how I got involved myself – because I followed both Steve and Rob, I saw that they were looking for someone with a decent camera to help take pictures and, being  ‘someone with a decent camera’ that would’ve been there anyway, I was able to offer my services. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. (Incidentally, you can check out some of my pics of the concert here, if you like!)

It’s this kind of transparency that makes the house concert experience so special, so totally unlike anything mainstream entertainment could ever offer, and it’s no huge surprise that the growing “house concert scene” we see today is coming hand-in-hand with the growing “social media scene”. These days, folks in just about every sector seem to be seeing the benefit in “spending a little energy to save a little moolah”, and tools like ReverbNation, YouTube, WordPress and Twitter not only help artists by eliminating the needs for so-called ‘middle men’ like agents, promoters, web designers, etc, but also increase the inherent value of whatever the content may be – the more directly from the artist a given piece of art is presented, the more worthwhile it seems to be.

For years, our culture’s been cramming the notion into our heads that a “good concert” NEEDS a huge stage and a bitchin’ show and a buncha lights and all these things, but the reality is, that at a certain point, the more attention we pay to elaborate presentation, the less we pay to the actual content. Sitting ten feet away from a solo artist in the middle of somebody’s beautiful living room, you get the chance to really feel what their music is all about, just as having some sort of ‘web connection’ with them gives you a chance to really see where their music’s coming from – thus painting this wonderful bigger picture of what the artist is all about that only serves to enrich and enhance the musical experience itself, all-the-while ultimately simplifying the process by which these media are made.

Eliminating the concern of the so-called “mass marketability” of their music allows the artists to provide, unadulterated, their music as they want it presented and nothing less – nothing watered down, nothing shortened for time limits, no concern about having to play “hits”, really no pressure to do much of anything! And as a result of this, a good $10 house concert can leave you feeling infinitely more satisfied than a bigger production ever could – I mean, where else could you hear some beautiful ambient solo-bass looping, some gorgeous singer/songwriter material, and one of the funkiest trio versions of Miles’ “Nardis” that’s probably ever been played all under one roof?!

The fact of the matter is that house concerts allow for one of the most free and open settings that I believe has ever been available, and are allowing, really for the first time ever, musicians of all different genres to join up and put together something completely original and unique, and something that they know will be appreciated all the more for it. Sure, it might be a little bit harder to explain to some potential audience members exactly what they’re about to see, but with an open mind, a night of “Neo-chamber music” (which is what I’ve come to appreciate this music as: simple, humble, not quite “jazzy”, but not quite “classical”…. it’s “Neo-chamber”!) can be inspiring and uplifting like no other format has, or could ever really be.

So I suppose here’s where I leave it to you guys. What have your house concert experiences been like? How do you feel about the intimacy of the whole thing? Does it make the music more accessable? Or do you find that it takes a bit of the fun out of it? Let me know!

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well look at that, zach made a blog. . .

March 23, 2009

zachparkes

Hey there internet!

And welcome to my brand spankin new blog! Its launching marks the end (or at least the end-of-the-beginning) of my journey into “getting my e-shit together”, a journey that’s been looong overdue. However, due to a fantastic case of school-related procrastination, the last couple weeks have seen the creation of accounts on  Twitter, ReverbNation, Flickr, YouTube and now WordPress for me (all of which you can find links to on the right! *wink*), and while I’ve certainly got a long way to go in terms of “mastering” these sites, after only a small amount of effort, I’m already starting to see the incredible potential results these media outlets can offer.

For the last several years, my ‘online footprint’ has been extremely limited, consisting of only a Facebook and a poorly-managed Myspace, and they served for me, like they do for most people, as little more than a means of supplementing my otherwise day-to-day relationships – I basically only talked to and interacted with the people I saw every day, and never really felt the need to branch out with it. As stated, this seems to be a relatively common conception in regards to so-called “internet identities”, and while I feel I’ve grown past it now, I certainly still see where the point of view comes from: staying “close to home” online is easy, comfortable, and low-maintenance, and requires very little time or effort. I only had a couple very simple pages, a few key friends on them, and that was fine for me. I saw no apparent need to venture any further with it, and didn’t for years, and that was totally cool.

Recently, though, I’ve come to realize just how utterly limiting my former point of view was, and realized just how much there really is to gain from even the most modest bit of online effort (por ejemplo, after only about a week with a Twitter, I’ve already met some fascinating folks and gotten some great insight!). I suppose my change of heart can probably be just as easily blamed on starting to feel ‘behind the times’ as much as it could on the particularly heavy diet of  Steve Lawson I’ve been digesting lately (not only a fantastic bassist, but a brilliant mind when it comes to all things “Social Media”), but either way, the end result has been my complete and total surrender to the greatness of the interwebs. I’m here, I’m pretty stoked about it, I promise to keep it interesting, and I hope to get in touch with all y’all soon!

Peace out, and thanks again for stoppin by!

Z