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Susie Markland runs a concert series out of her house in Gambrills, MD. Wait, she does what? Yes, she really does this. Her basement has been converted into a mini concert hall, complete with five or six rows of chairs, lighting, and a P.A. system. When she hosts a concert, she begins by serving food to the guests upstairs while the artists check sound below. When it’s show time, she herds the concert goers down her red carpeted stairs to the listening area. They find a seat, she introduces the first artist, and off they go.
I first began experimenting with house concerts in 2006 when I hit the road as a full-time musician. I quickly fell in love with the format, because it offers what so few other venues offer an audience and it’s performer: a chance to interact.
At many venues across our country owners seem to think it is enough to set up a musician in a corner, turn up the volume, and go back to whatever they were doing before the guy with a guitar showed up. Thousands of coffee shops, bars, restaurants, book stores, and other businesses seem open to the idea of “having” live music, but very few want to actually facilitate a human connection.
This is what happens so easily at many house concerts. The performer is often in a small space only feet away from the audience, who are usually crammed in close in these “just-so” seating arrangements. Everyone is up in everyone’s business. This can be uncomfortable at first, but after a few jokes and some good songs everyone relaxes and opens up. It’s this unique level of vulnerability that makes house concerts so rewarding for both audience and performer. As a listener, you can hear every lyric, every guitar part, every nuance of the performance. As a performer, you are able to have confidence that those quiet, subtle nuances won’t fall on deaf ears. A songwriter has the freedom to perform, and a fan has the freedom to listen.
My pal ellen cherry performed a set Sunday afternoon as well. Please check out her music here. If you sign up for her mailing list, she’ll send you an MP3 of her song “Maryanne.” It’s chilling. She totally killed it today.
Until you’ve experienced a good house concert you can’t fully understand the power of this kind of intimate performance. If you’d like more information on house concerts in your area, or if you’d like to try hosting one, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t even have to host me! I’d just like to tell you more about them. They’ve been a saving grace for many an independent songwriter.
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