Friday, September 26, 2008

House Concerts 4 Sale

Bill Mallonee--"Punk Rock's Dead" (mp3)
Vigilantes of Love--"This Time Isn't One Of Them" (mp3)

It must be disconcerting, if you've been even the slightest version of a rock star, to walk into the first suburban home for your first suburban house concert. 'Oh, my God,' you must think, 'is this really what the rest of the journey is going to be like? Am I really going to talk to mothers with a baby in one arm and an Amstel Light in the other instead of women of indeterminate age who wait after the show to tell me how much they love my songs? Am I really going to talk to men who preen like peacocks because they're hosting my show and they want to tell me about the time that they, too, were in a band? Where is the rider that guarantees me 4 chilled bottles of a vintage chardonnay, a tray of sushi, and a private dressing room? Will my car hold up for the trip back home?'

But, then you realize that you are going to make some money tonight and that you will be playing in front of a crowd of people who love your music, or at least who know someone who does.

Welcome to the world of house concerts. I'm pretty sure it's a late-to-post 90's phenomena, this idea that any of us can get a not-as-popular-as-he-or-she-used-to-be-singer-songwriter to come play a concert at our house for a pass-the-hat price of several hundred dollars. To us, it's a bargain, an exciting event. To the performer, it's money, maybe a chance to play, maybe a stopgap measure in a career that might revive.

Thanks to the initiative of our friend John, we've now hosted 4 house concerts among our friends here in Chattanooga. All have featured Bill Mallonee, former songwriter and lead singer of the band Vigilantes of Love. Bill is a good sport about all of this--house concerts have helped him to get through some tough times and he has the kind of engaging personality that allows you to feel like he really enjoys and appreciates the chance to play for you. He's also pretty receptive to requests, and, even though he write a fresh bunch of good songs each year, he has the sense to build a show that mixes favorites with new stuff. And, you get to know Bill and his wife, Muriah, and they remember you when they come back, so it gets a little more personal each time. In short, he's the real deal, and the ideal house concert performer.

From his perspective, house concerts allow him to maintain contact with a fan base (for who would initiate a house concert if he or she wasn't a big fan) and to build something of a tour, that would, no doubt, include some clubs and festivals, but would fill the time and space between with house concerts. All things, of course, are relative, but regardless of where you once might have been, $500 for 1 1/2 hours' worth of work is still a pretty good deal.

Working out the logistics for a house concert is quite interesting. Stop right now and figure out if you were going to host a live concert in your house, where would you put the performer? In the age of everything available on computers, are you going to allow die-hard fans whom you don't know to come be a part of your concert, or are you going to keep it private? Do you only invite friends who you think will appreciate the show or do you invite as many as you can to try to keep the costs down? Are you going to ask friends for money or are you going to trust that donations will take care of it? Food or no food? Are you going to provide the drinks? Are you going to suck up the cost if no one else helps out? Will you be able to host the show and enjoy the show?

Perhaps this is proof that the world truly is getting smaller. Or maybe that doesn't even matter. What if you could host a concert for your closest friends? What if you had a chance of saying, one of the best concerts I ever saw was in my living room? That's the lure of the house concert.

"Punk Rock's Dead" comes from Bill's solo record, Friendly Fire. Though he says it doesn't get much reaction elsewhere, it is a definite favorite at Chattanooga house concerts. "This Time Isn't One Of Them" comes from the Vigilantes of Love cd, To The Roof Of The Sky. Both are available at Itunes. Well, maybe not "Punk Rock's Dead." Bill's myspace page is here.


Anonymous said...

Didn't realize you were doing this. House concerts are about as "punk rock" as you can get. As I recall, In the nineties, there was a whole house concert tour of the US that punk bands used to do. Folks on lookout records like Richmond's Avail. You could see their itinerary by city and stuff like Bill's house or Bob's house. We used to play some as well, and they were usually the wildest. One of my favorite's was in San Luis Obispo, CA sponsored by the Cal Poly radio station. We played til 2 in the morning at the station manager's house to a very altered, enthusiastic crowd. Everyone left around 3 in the morning, and I ended up sleeping in a sleeping bag behind my drumset. The Station Manager was kind enough to cook us breakfast the next morning before we headed to San Francisco. California was fun.

John said...

Been listening to that 99 VOL concert with full band and am convinced of the need for Bill to get an ensemble around him. As for house concerts, I'd probably have one or two a year if I lived off campus. Reading your post reminds me of why I like hosting them so much so thanks for that.