Hosted a house concert last night with Joel Rafael. It was a fine show, and Joel sounded really good. He’s got some new songs and the audience really enjoyed the evening. The one downside was probably the heat. It’s been terribly hot here and the house just holds on to it.
What struck me last night was how the house changes when it’s house concert night. How it becomes compartmentalized and assumes its new identity so easily.
The back bedroom becomes the green room where the artist relaxes before the show. I stock it with water and snacks (last night was red pepper hummus with crackers and spinach dip). There is a rocking chair that someone can sit in and while the audience comes in they can faintly hear the artist tuning up and rehearsing down the hallway.
The enclosed porch area which usually serves as my office space becomes the lobby where guests come in. I check their name off a list using my laptop and they pay for their seat and wander in to claim a chair.
The living room becomes the house seating where I set up cushioned folding chairs that face the dining room. I usually play a CD (last night was both Joni Mitchell’s “Dreamland” and Rickie Lee Jones “Naked”) or tune to a cable music channel (usually the bluegrass station) for house music for the guests to enjoy before the show.
The dining room becomes the stage. This house is an old Craftsman so it is replete with hardwood floors, original wood doorframes and a lovely built-in buffet area that has a low mirror in it. The artist can place their drinks, capo, music, tuner, etc on the surface and not be too cluttered. The space has fit up to 5 musicians in various set-ups. If there’s a drummer, he or she usually sets up near the kitchen door, but usually it’s just one or two performers who play and sing. For lighting, I put a floor lamp down to the left of the performer near the door and then the overhead light has blue, green & red bulbs that serves well to light the stage. The audience is dark. I only turn on other lights before the show, at intermission and after the show.
Outside on the side porch, we set up a table right outside the door that serves as our refreshment area. There’s coffee (regular & decaf) and sugar, Sweet ‘n’ Low or creamer. There’s also water and usually some cookies or other kind of treat. Guests can contribute a dessert to share if they choose but aren’t required. There’s also plenty of space out there for folks to hang out before the show and at intermission.
The kitchen is off-limits as is DK’s room and everyone respects that. If I need to go to the kitchen for anything, I just go through the back door and stay quiet.
While the show is going on, I stay in my office area or sit on the side porch and watch through the screen door. Or I’ll sit in the back with Han where he is recording the show. It’s strange to listen to the show that way. Because often it sounds so good anyway that you don’t realize it’s happening live, much less two rooms away. And there is a strange sense of safety to it all. Knowing that our home is filled with kind people who love music that is created simply by strumming a guitar and singing a song.
It’s an awesome thing to fill the house with music this way. And to fill it with those people, too. The artist is undoubtedly happy to play for an audience that listens, that is tuned in to every word, every story and to earn a nice amount of money to get them to the next gig, pay for some gas and some food. I’ve been hosting shows for seven years now and I sometimes forget the magic that is created. But for a moment last night, the house shifted and was not just a house where I live with my love. It was a haven for sound, for peace, for like-minded citizens to gather and appreciate a troubadour, a place where you not only meet grace, you get to know her and look forward to the next time you can get together.