Before recorded music became the norm, home concerts were one of the few musical experiences people had. As recorded music became more widespread, we slowly entered the age of large arena concerts and house concerts fell out of favour. Recently, however, the home concert scene has been experiencing a resurgence, particularly in the United States.
While the United States currently has the most developed house concert scene with its own culture, community and network, house concerts are not unique to the United States. Other countries such as Canada, South Korea, India and Brazil have also started to develop their own house concert scenes.
My Darling Clementine, the husband and wife English country duo consisting of Michael King and Lou Dalgleish, kicked off the American leg of their tour on April 1 with a house concert here in Rochester. The duo’s US tour is a mixture of typical venues and house concerts. In conversation with the CT, they said they enjoy the intimacy and informality that comes with house concerts and see it as a way to “shake things up.” Dalgleish believes that house concerts are “about American touring culture” because the United States has a nationwide network of house concerts. King sees house concerts as more of a chatty thing, noting in an interview that they allow performers to “pick out someone in the audience and point something at them.” Playing house concerts also allows the duo to fill in dates between their larger shows and gives them the opportunity to host different types of performances. . They are also financially worthwhile for artists, as all proceeds go to the artist together.
Rick Simpson, the host of My Darling Clementine’s April 1 house concert, began hosting house concerts in the 2000s. In conversation with the CT, Simpson said that this wasn’t something he planned, but rather something he fell into. Always a huge music fan, Simpson attended the South by Southwest music festival in Texas and met singer-songwriter Eric Taylor, of whom Simpson was a fan. In 2008, Taylor released his latest album and, hoping to get a copy, Simpson called Taylor. Instead, he brought in his wife and his booking agent, who suggested putting on a house concert for Taylor as he would be in the area soon. Simpson agreed and began promoting his first-ever house concert. He made a compilation CD of excerpts from Taylor’s music and carried copies with him wherever he went. Inside the CD cases were details about the house concert, and Simpson gave a copy to everyone he met who hadn’t heard of Eric Taylor. Simpson’s first house concert was a success — the beginning of many. Since his first house concert, Simpson has successfully hosted 57 different shows.
Simpson’s love of music drives him to host house concerts. He usually hosts performers he admires or is already very familiar with. Simpson has no interest in making money from his house concerts, so all proceeds go directly to the artists. He enjoys the feeling of helping musicians and sees more with the artists at house concerts. An added bonus with hosting is that he can hang out with the artists.
House concerts also ensure community and networks. Many of the guests Simpson invites to his house concerts have been visiting him for years and have become his friends. Guests also help provide food for the show. Every house concert Simpson has hosted has seen him and his wife, Monica, setting out drinks, snacks, baked goods, and the like. Guests bring their own food, adding to the community atmosphere that a house concert provides.
A big part of the house concert scene is the network that is made up of it. In the past, this network consisted mainly of word of mouth. People were invited to house concerts by word of mouth, and by word of mouth, some house concert hosts learned of new artists who might be the hosts. Now, this networking mostly happens on invite-only sites, such as e.g. Facebook. In fact, Facebook has become a big part of the house concert community network, serving both as a place for hosts to post about the artists they host and as a means to find other artists to host house concerts for be able. This network is also used to notify other house concert hosts of passing artists in case they may wish to add another date.
House concerts are likely to continue to grow as more DIY and indie artists enter the scene and need places to perform. That being said, the best advice I can give you for those who want to go to house concerts is to stick with the artists you like. Otherwise, ask people you know who have attended house concerts. Word of mouth still plays a big part in house concert culture, so it’s best to know someone who’s already at it.