During one week early in June I spent over $300 for a pair of tickets to see Peter Gabriel perform his 1986 legendary album So from beginning to end in late September. I’ll be sharing the experience with about 20,000 of my closest friends. That same week Wood Stove House welcomed regional folk rock band Indian Summer Jars to one of our house concerts. That experience was shared with about 30 of my closest friends.
This contrast made me start thinking about the difference between these two live music experiences. I grew seeing the biggest heavy metal tours of the 80s at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena (RIP). The sound of a crowd’s roar when the lights went down and the first glimpse of the band when the lights came back up would often bring this young, snarky, hot shot to tears (well concealed in the darkness of the arena, of course). In my 20s, big concerts moved to the amphitheaters and festivals like Lollapalooza and HORDE.
Since the turn of the century, I can count the number of BIG concerts I’ve attended on one hand. This is probably due to a mix of getting older, family commitments, and being further away from big venues. The appeal lessened even more when we started producing our own house concerts in 2009.
There’s still magic in the big show for me. The Police reunion tour a few years back was amazing, Roger Waters has been mind blowing on his recent solo tours, and I’m sure Peter Gabriel will be a religious experience. But given the choice between the two, I’d take a house concert any day.
The appeal of the house concert is in the intimacy. There’s the fellowship of the audience. The volume of the crowd is underwhelming compared to 20,000 screaming fans, but the opportunity to share a drink, have inspired conversation, and meet new friends is extremely rich. The performance is about the audience as much as the artist. With 30-40 people in a full room, everyone’s energy counts. The musician’s connection with each and every person in the room will directly affect the performance.
And then there’s the music itself. In a living room, all of the sounds are exposed. You don’t just hear the music amplified through the instruments’ electronics, you hear the instrument itself. Every finger brushing along the strings, or tap of a musician’s foot becomes part of the mosaic of sound.
Finally, who wouldn’t want a chance to talk to the artists, hear stories and inspiration behind the music, and show the ultimate support of buying a CD directly from the artists who made it?
Yes, big concerts have plenty to offer, but house concerts offer a fresh, unique, and rare opportunity to experience live music in a very personal way. If you haven’t attended one yet, find a series near you and give it a try. I’ll bet you won’t be disappointed.