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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!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2009 12:53 am

    Zach, your post really captures the spirit of the evening and the events that lead up to it. Thanks so much for being so generous with you talents, positive energy and participation. Your photos, this blog post, and enthusiasm were valuable assets.

    “Neo-Chamber” music is an excellent term to use to categorize the music and it’s delivery here. Hope you don’t mind I use THAT too. 😉

    Atmos Trio

  2. April 15, 2009 3:12 pm

    This really is fascinating stuff! I was enthusing to a colleague and fellow muso at work today about this particular house concert and the buzz it created. I’m going to seriously look into at least the possibility of how this might work over here in the uk (with our ‘matchbox’ size houses!). Really great job Steve/Rob et. al. and all the folks who contributed to it.

  3. April 15, 2009 6:28 pm

    Thought I’d share our great resource on your post.

    free tools for house concert presenters (videos, flyers, listings) and inexpensive memberships for artists to join the growing community.


    Fran Snyder

  4. April 20, 2009 4:54 am

    Looks like it was an amazing concert. I’ll know about the next one you do – thanks to Twitter. So many great creative people under one roof!

  5. June 7, 2010 10:54 am

    Thanks for your blog. Indeed, I’ve been wondering why house concerts are so special. It is apparent when I go to a big concert hall, just what is missing after going to, performing at, and hosting/producing house concerts. The intimacy of a small physical space, the hospitality of the host, the proximity to the performers, the feeling that you are directly contributing to something special (without intermediaries), and that the event is exclusive (i.e. not widely publicised)…. all these things make a difference. What strikes me most inspiring is the direct contact with people — not just the performers but other listeners too.

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