Two shows in the first week of September, it's been good. Hopefully you saw the September Sessions video for The Turnaround. The house concert was a success and I want to give some feedback on that experience but first a quick update on the other things we have going on: Playing together with Dave, Ashley, Aidan, and Shazer we've had some good jams. I will be working more with Ashley in the future. Dave, Aidan, and I played an invigorating set at the Rogue Bar on a Thursday night. Great room there, there weren't many to fill it but it was great none the less and I want to make a return. During this same week something inspired me to make a totally revised recording of Big Win, created from the ground up with new lyrics. It was four days of me locked in the studio: 1 Drums, 2 strings, 3 guitar/bass/keys, 4 vocal/melodica/mixing. That will be the single version and will be released soon, including my multi-tracked violin to fabricate a little funky string section, with surprisingly awesome results. I will definitely put that in my bag of tricks to use again when the time is right. I think this could be the best production I've done, we are in the right direction. New songs are in the books, working to get them into waveforms, this always gives me optimism; and coupled with the recent live shows and successful Big Win sessions it's a good time for gillwire, there's a lot going on in my head right now.
So you want to do your own house concert? Maybe you will be hosting for an artist you know or maybe like me you are the artist and just want to create a show where you are in control. Here are the steps I took: Find a residence that will have a decent sized space to fit a group and more importantly that you will have access to without overstepping your welcome. If your own house fits this then that's probably the best bet. Have a plan to move large furniture into other rooms and bring in more chairs. Analyze how many chairs can fill the space, it's not too bad a thing if you need to get cozy but leave some room for the performers of course and a small sound system (not always necessary). Then make sure you can round up all these chairs, make plans to borrow as necessary. Based on your capacity you then need to create a guest list and pick a suitable date for the event, you will probably want to send out the invites about a month or at least a few weeks in advance. Mine was held on a Saturday evening which worked great but weeknights might be fine too if you don't go too late. Don't just open it up to the public, you could be asking for trouble; stick to your guest list which should be buffered since probably not all will be able to attend, but also realize that those who do come will probably want to bring a friend or a date. Whoever owns the home should have control over the guest list because they are the ones with the power to grant permission as to who they bring into their home and you want them to be comfortable about the whole thing, actually they should be in agreement with all aspects of the event. Think a little bit about what kind of parking is available and if any extra arrangements need to be made to accommodate your guests.
I know many artists sell merch at house concerts which is fine but I wouldn't try to charge admission, it just seems tacky and unnecessary. The host should have a personal connection with the guests and it's more of a social invite like asking someone for dinner, it's bad form to then ask them to pay for their meal. I just wanted to play for those who want to hear it so this was a perfect event to suit my needs, it helps people connect with you better and can be good fuel for word of mouth buzz.
If you have some recording equipment then a house concert is a good time to capture audio and video, I had some snags in this area because I was trying to facilitate it all myself and perform and didn't really have enough help on the technical side but I did manage to get good video from a camera set up on a tripod and I had an audio feed from the mixing board going to the computer. Not all the songs came out because somewhere along the line some levels got adjusted on the mixer and the audio ended up distorting going into the computer but in the room it sounded good and I was busy singing so I wasn't able to monitor and adjust it through the night. I was hoping for at least another camera angle that I could edit together with the audio afterwards but I didn't end up getting someone set up who was ready and willing with the equipment so that didn't happen. Try not to bite off more than you can chew, that's something I learned, but I did get some usable video and audio from it so try to do what you can and if it doesn't all work out don't worry, just focus on your performance.
You will probably do electronic invites but you could also go retro and put something in the mail or personally hand out flyers to friends. It doesn't hurt to have a reminder stuck to the fridge so a paper copy can be effective to get people to commit. Whatever you do, if you make it more personal they will probably be more likely to show up. Keep in mind this is different than a party, some similarities but definitely different. You can have some mingling going on but a house concert is really set up so the performance is the focal point and those who attend will sit and watch and listen as if they were at a theatre, that's the general expectation. Give specific start and end times on the invites and don't make it too big a window or people will get the idea they can just show up any time in there as if it were a party, you don't want people showing up in the middle of the set and disturbing the room. I'd recommend keeping the set to an hour or no longer than an hour and a half, maybe if there are 2 acts then it could be two 45 minute sets. Analyze what time you need for the set and then stick on another 30 minutes at the front for welcoming and getting people situated. After the show if people are talking and having a good time then there's no need to rush them out. If they liked the set then they will probably want to at least have a short conversation with the performer, don't deny them that opportunity.
I'm sure there are many ways to have a successful house concert, if you are interested then go for it, it worked well for me. You could even approach one of your favorite local musicians letting them know you are willing to host a show for them, just be prepared to be the one to get bodies in the door. On that note I'll remind you, I'm open to playing house concerts right now.