A couple years ago, a good friend of mine asked if we would be interested in seeing David Bazan at a house show in Cleveland. I had been to a few house shows when I was younger, but not as an adult. I agreed to go, because Kurt is a huge fan of Bazan. At the time, I was only familiar with him by name and his work with Pedro the Lion, but I had never, ever listened to him.
My friend Patrick sent me the address, and told us to meet him there. We showed up at a house in Cleveland Heights. It was bizarre to walk to the door of a house I had never been to, with beer we had bought from a gas station around the corner, and knock on the door and say “hi, we’re here for the show!”
We took a seat (on the floor) between the living room and the dining room; Bazan was set up right next to us. Despite the odd location, we were able to see and hear the entire show. I enjoyed the music, but moreso, I enjoyed the experience of seeing an artist I wasn’t familiar with in such an intimate setting. He would sing a song, and then tell a story, or take questions from the audience in between songs.
The only thing that really didn’t sit well with me was the layout of the house we saw him in. The hosts had half of the crowd in the dining room, half in the small living room. There were people hanging out in the staircases, and in their kitchen. Many couldn’t see. On the drive home, I mentioned to Kurt, “our place is huge. We should host a show!”
Fast forward to about a year and a half later, when I saw a post from Undertow Music Collective, looking for hosts for David Bazan. Akron was on the list of potential venues. We submitted photos of our apartment, capped the list at 40 people, and two weeks after our wedding, David Bazan played in our solarium. And then, after a chat with our friend Craig (and the help of Bob and Jayne again at Undertow), he played in our living room to 50 people in January of this year.
Want to host a show in your own house? Here are my tips for success:
1. Have a good room for a show. We have a LOT of space in our apartment. We have a solarium that is attached to our living room; that is where the musicians set up. There is a clear sight line from solarium all the way back into our dining room. When we are having a show, we move our dining room tables into a spare room, to free up more space.
2. Live in an apartment? Be considerate of your neighbors. Make alternate plans for parking closeby. Opt for stripped down sets, not a full band show. We’ve been lucky to be able to schedule shows on the weekends only.
3. Be realistic about the number of people you will be comfortable having in your home. We had 50 people for Craig Finn, and it was bordering on too much, when you add the people on our personal guest list. Speaking of guest lists:
4. Don’t be a dick about the guest list. Undertow always allows 5 people, in addition to whomever lives in the house. For both shows, I had people emailing and asking to get in for free. Yes, it’s your house, your rules. But think of it like this: nobody asks me to do my day job for free, so you shouldn’t expect a performer to do a show for your friends for free, either.
5. You have to be ok with strangers being in your home. They will be using your bathroom, so leave out some hand towels and make sure the soap is full. In my experience, people only went into our kitchen (to put beer in the fridge), our bathroom, and the room where the show is. The thing about the house shows we’ve done is that with a higher ticket price, the only people showing up to the shows are also really big fans. They’re not there to steal your tchotchkes or drink your beer. Speaking of beer…
6. You are the one who sets the pace for the show. If you don’t want alcohol at your house, you can state as such on the tickets. We didn’t care, and honestly, there were no problems at either show. In fact, we ended up with a fridge full of craft beer after the show. Thanks, guests! Also: let your guests know if they'll be sitting on the floor, so that they can bring cushions and pillows to sit on.
7. If you have pets, put them in another room during the performance. Chairman comes out after most of the crowd has left, because like her mom, she also loves singer songwriters.
8. Set the mood for the show! Play some music before the performance starts. Light a few candles, or have some kind of ambient lighting.
9. Enjoy the show! Seriously, enjoy it! I have enjoyed having my favorite performers play in my house, where I don’t have to wear shoes, and drinks are cheap. And after they’re done performing, I’ve enjoyed some really fun conversations with them, too.