Before recorded music became the norm, house concerts were one of the only 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 favor. Recently, however, the house concert scene has been seeing a resurgence, primarily 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 aren’t entirely unique to the United States. Other countries such as Canada, South Korea, India, and Brazil have also started developing their own house concert scenes.
My Darling Clementine, the husband-wife English country music duo made up 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 U.S. tour is a mix of typical venues and house concerts. In an interview with the CT, they stated that they enjoy the intimacy and informality that come with house concerts, and see them as a way to “mix things up.” Dalgleish feels that doing house concerts is “about the American touring culture,” given that the United States has a network of house concerts across the country. King views house concerts as having a more conversational air, noting in an interview that they allow artists to “pick someone out from the audience and direct something towards them.” Playing house concerts also allows the duo to fill in dates between their bigger shows, and gives them a chance to put on different types of performances. . They are also financially worthwhile to artists, with all proceeds commonly going to the artist.
Rick Simpson, the host of My Darling Clementine’s April 1 house concert, started hosting house concerts in the 2000s. In an interview with the CT, Simpson said that this wasn’t something he had planned on doing, but was rather something he fell into. Having always been a huge music fan, Simpson attended “South by Southwest,” a music festival held in Texas, and met singer-songwriter Eric Taylor, of whom Simpson was a fan. In 2008, Taylor was releasing his latest album, and in the hopes of getting a copy, Simpson called Taylor. Instead, he got his wife and booking agent, who suggested he host a house concert for Taylor, given that he would be in the area soon. Simpson agreed and began promoting his very first house concert. He created a compilation CD with snippets from Taylor’s music and carried copies with him everywhere he went. Inside the CD cases’ sleeves were details about the house concert, and Simpson would give a copy to anyone he met who had not heard of Eric Taylor. Simpson’s first house concert was a success — the start 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 that he admires, or is already very familiar with. Simpson has no interest in making money from his house concerts, allowing all proceeds to go directly to the performers. He enjoys the feeling of helping musicians out, and sees house concerts as being more about the artists. An added bonus to hosting is that he gets to hang out with the artists.
House concerts also provide community and networks. Many guests that Simpson invites to his house concerts have been attending for years and have become friends of his. The 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. The guests bring their own food, contributing to the community atmosphere that a house concert provides.
A large part of the house concert scene is the network that exists within it. Back in the day, this network was primarily word of mouth. People would be invited to house concerts by word of mouth, and word of mouth was how some house concert hosts learned about new artists to potentially host. Now, this networking is primarily on invite-only sites, such as Facebook. In fact, Facebook has become a big part of the community network of house concerts serving both as a place for hosts to post about the artists they are hosting, and as a means to find other artists to host house concerts for. This network is also used to tell other house concert hosts of artists coming through, in case they want to potentially add another date.
House concerts will likely continue to rise as more and more DIY and indie artists come to the scene and need places to perform at. That being said, for those looking to get into going to house concerts, the best advice I can give you is to stay tuned into the artists you like. Outside of that, ask people you know who have gone to house concerts. Word of mouth still plays a large role in house concert culture, so the best way to get in is to know someone who’s already in.