What We Did With Our Saturday
Posted on December 22, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 28 Comments
A couple of months ago William Beckett, a favorite musician of mine, tweeted that he was available to do in-house concerts in December. Well, I thought, I have a house, and additionally, my daughter, who is also a fan of his music, has a birthday coming up. So I inquired to see if he might be available the weekend before her birthday, and he was. So: In-house concert featuring William Beckett.
This was the first time we had ever done an in-house appearance, and I was curious to see how it would go. The answer: Really, really well. One, William did an excellent set, interspersing songs and banter in a highly entertaining way, so from a pure entertainment point of view it was a hit. Two, he’s also just a lovely person who was friendly and personable to all the guests, and happily signed CDs and took pictures and did all the things to make sure folks who came to the house left feeling they had taken part in something special.
(As an aside, as a person who does public events and has interaction with fans, it’s always interesting to see how others in the same situation manage the task — it’s often (indeed is usually) fun, but it can be draining as well, and sometimes a bad day or the wrong person can really challenge one’s skill at being “on” and charming. I think the crowd at my house was a pretty easy crowd in that regard, but be that as it may I admired William’s facility with this particular skill. I was taking notes.)
In short, I couldn’t have been happier with the experience — and neither could have my daughter, which, as it was her birthday concert, was really the important thing. So consider this an endorsement of the William Beckett in-home experience: If you get a chance to host him (or see him) in this sort of setting, definitely do it.
This also encourages me to try this again with other musicians — it’s a neat way to see them do their thing, and also, you don’t even have to leave the house to do it. I can get behind that.
Back when I had a bigger living room, I hosted a small house concert for SJ Tucker. Dunno if you’ve heard her. It was certainly worth it both for the concert and the friends I made. And what an awesome birthday gift.
Hurrah! The minstrel tradition is alive!
John, I was watching the way you worked the crowd at Boskone, a couple of years back, and learned a lot from that!
That sounds like it would have been fun.
I’m glad you didn’t kidnap Mr. Beckett and force him to perform, like Smithers did with Tom Jones a few years ago.
I saw his old band open for Fall Out Boy back when both of those groups were small enough that they were still playing tiny bars. This looks even cooler. I’m assuming you were just too busy slamdancing to get any pictures of the in-home mosh pit.
A number of years ago, I went to a house concert–the performer was Wesley Stace (at the time, of course, he was John Wesley Harding). To this day, it remains one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. So, so fun.
I’m glad you all had a similarly good experience and what a wonderful birthday gift!
In the first sentence, you wrote “we was available”, which is obviously a typo. But in the first sentence of the second paragraph I’m not sure. Did you mean to say it was the first time he had done an in-house, or the first time you did?
I love home concerts. Most that I’ve been to have been classical, but I’ve been to a couple by bands and they’ve been a lot of fun. It would be nice to see the practice flourish.
Typo. It was fixed, thanks!
Ellis Paul gives good house concerts. You should check it out.
DO IT! This is one of the very best ways to help musicians actually earn a living and get their music out there, without having to deal with the overhead of hall rental, extensive advertising budget, promoter fees, etc. More info: http://www.concertsinyourhome.com/
What a fun experience!
And thanks, angeline for that link–I may pass that on to my son in case he wants to sign up as an artist.
My father has the Oak Ridge Boys at our Boy Scout meeting during their “Elvira” craze. It was amazing experience.
I never knew that house concerts were a thing. Very cool.
I wish our living room were bigger; as it is, it looks like you had about 20 people comfortably seated for the concert. A performer at our house would have to stand in the kitchen.
House concerts are very much a thing in the folk/singer-songwriter world, especially with the decline of music clubs in general, folk clubs in particular. I highly recommend attending them if you get the chance, hosting them if you have the space and network of friends.
And another thumbs up to Ellis Paul. Brilliant writer and performer.
Disclaimer: In my volunteer life I’ve hosted a folk music program on KLCC-Eugene public radio since 1990. I’ve been to a lot of house concerts.
Mighty nice Birthday present
When I retired from the USAF in the fall of 2007 I thought about hosting a different type of retirement party. The usual is a buffet reception at the Officers’ Club or HQ conference room, with a few people saying nice thing about the retiree (me) while handing out some plaques and other inexpensive mementos and then the retiree gets up to say a few words. My investments had done better than I had ever expected by a wide, wide margin (pro tip: the conventional wisdom to invest in stocks while you’re young and continue to do so regularly? It works!), so I told my wife I’d like to hire Bruce Springsteen–I told her figured it would cost us everything I’d made, but it would be the coolest retirement ever to have the Boss show up and play a couple of sets (I was kidding, but with my dry and sarcastic sense of humor I can play things really straight to the point no one knows if I am or not, especially if it’s something serious). She got really upset, with a “but it’s my retirement income too! You’d better not!” which was the reaction I expected and was shooting for.
A couple of days later I was at the weekly staff meeting and when the Colonel I sat next to asked me about plans for the retirement party and post-retirement life I told him about funning with my wife. He got quiet for a bit, and then said “You know I’m from Jersey, right? Well, I grew up with Springsteen and know him pretty well. And my brother’s his road/concert manager. He’s getting ready to head out on tour for his new album, so playing in a small setting to road test the concert sets and arrangements would fit right in. For the money you’re talking about I think we could make this happen. Let me know…” (The things you don’t know about your co-workers!)
I had to think long and hard before I told him thanks but no thanks. I still think that would have been the coolest retirement ever—inviting people to the local park for a picnic, outdoor buffet retirement thing with the promise of some music as part of it (with some strong hints that you really, really want to be there, promise! This will be way better than the normal retirement ceremony! You’ll regret you weren’t there for a long time if you don’t show up!), and after the standard “thanks for your service and good luck in the future” speechifying the E Street Band walks out, starts tuning up, and the opening licks from “Born to Run” start pouring out of the speakers as Bruce steps to the front…
It seems much more personal an intimate. Sounds like a great memory for your family and your daughter!
Thanks for sharing.
There are often house concerts in the SF Bay Area featuring Celtic musicians. Although I’ve gone to Celtic performances in regular venues, I’ve always felt a little shy about going to a stranger’s house. You’ve given me encouragement to try to go to the next one, John.
My friend hosted the Doubleclicks and loved it. (I wasn’t able to go because I’m not in the area.)
House concerts are AWESOME. I have friends on the central Cali coast who’ve hosted house concerts for years, mostly for indie musicians of the singer/songwriter variety–friends, or friends of friends–who tend to be infinitely more talented than most of what shows up on the radio. But my friends have also hosted concerts with Glen Phillips (of Toad the Wet Sprocket fame), Lapdog (the other Toad members touring as a band) and Brian Vander Ark (the Verve Pipes). A wonderful experience!
My grandparents and one of my uncles used to do things like this in their homes in India. They were just amazing.
Happy birthday wishes to Athena. Many joyous wishes for a lovely year ahead.
As a folkie who has attended many house concerts, I say hooray for Scalzi. Good work!
If it sounded only half as much as you make it sound, it must have been awesome!
You don’t have to leave the house, but you do have to *clean* the house. As in “clean it better than what we’re willing to live with* sort of clean. Sounds like this was one of those occasions where that sort of clean was worth it. Well done!
sounds great, did he sing full lyrics with curse words and all!
I’m a big fan of house concerts, and like Josh, have hosted, and would recommend, especially for genre fans, SJ Tucker — beyond being just amazingly talented, she’s also done soundtracks for at least three Catherynne Valente books, and has been a GOH at a con or three. We’ve also been lucky enough to host house concerts by Heather Dale (also pretty well-known in genre circles) and Rebecca Loebe (who had some minor fame on the first season of The Voice, and has one of the best zombie apocalypse songs ever). All of them have been wonderful experiences, and I’m glad to hear that Beckett’s house concert was also superb.
Find your local Filkers. If you have a space that will fit a bunch’o people and like to have fun with live music and SF, invite them round for a house filk. When I used to live in Silicon Valley we had pretty much weekly sings; some tiny, some quite large.
Hell, you have multiple acres – hold a filkfest in the summer (or whenever the weather is appropriate in your part of the world) outdoors.