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The Mid-Week Beat: House Concerts

houseconcertsRecently, we here at Brown Paper Tickets have seen a surge in the popularity of house concerts: concerts hosted in the homes of ardent music fans who wish to have a more intimate musical experience, in the comfort of their own homes, amongst a handful of fellow music enthusiasts. The audiences can range from 10 people, or up to 20 or 30.

Traditionally, house concerts were common amongst folk, country and blues musicians living in rural areas without traditional venues to play in. In fact, you could argue that, in these areas, pretty much every live musical performance was in someone’s home.

In urban areas like New York City, apartments were often used for rent parties, where a tenant would hire local musicians to play and then pass the hat amongst the attendeees to collect that month’s rent.  Rent parties of 1920s New York are often credited as playing a major role in the development of jazz and blues and jazz legends like Willie “The Lion” Smith and Fats Waller got their start playing stride piano at these affairs. Later, in the 1930s, New York folk musicians like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger would describe their weekly rent parties as “hootenannys.”

While rent parties and hootenannys may be things of the past, for the most part, the house concert remains popular. The intimate environment seems to lend itself to classical, blues, folk and Americana music, but it’s a great venue for singer/songwriters as well. Audiences can enjoy the music without being distracted by the din and clatter associated with traditional music venues and bars. They can hear the lyrics and enjoy the little subtleties of an individual’s performance.

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