My First House Concert Experience

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 10:53 PM with 8 comments

photo of Steve LawsonSo I arrive at the venue after trudging through the snow. I ring the bell and someone greets me who has no idea who I am. As I enter, I see the opening act setting up. I grab a beer and get a place to sit as the lights dim and the first act starts. Oh, I forgot to mention that I rang the bell and was warmly greeted by the owner of what was a house in a nice neighborhood who was also the lead singer of the opening band. The beer I brought myself, and I sat on a nice rug just feet from the other side of the living room where the bands were setup. This is what is called a house concert.

The concept of a house concert was something completely new to me, as well as for the other attendees that night. It was held by The Locals a Chicago alternative rock band. They performed followed by Steve Lawson and his lovely wife Lobelia Lawson. It was from Steve I heard about the house concert – he and I met at Nokia OpenLab this fall in Helsinki and he talked about his house concert “tour” in several US cities over Twitter. Most all of the others in attendance were friends and fans of The Locals.

House concerts are apparently something big in the UK, from where Steve and Lobelia hail. Which is not surprising, because a lot of cool things come from Europe and Asia and find their way to the US, but I digress. The advantage of a house concert is that it is a small, intimate audience in a comfortable setting that is not filled with smoke or overpriced beverages, not to mention the up-close and personal relationship the audience has with the artists themselves and vice-versa, which for me was they key for this.

photo of The LocalsTwo sets comprised the evening, one by The Locals and the other by Steve and Lobelia, the latter alternating between solos by each as well as duets. As someone who spent most of his college days in the late 80’s in the radio station studios, I loved The Locals. They are a 3-piece band, with Yvonne as vocals and guitar, Christy as bass and Kirk on percussion. Yvonne’s voice reminded me a lot of Kristen Hersh. They played mostly their own, awesome original songs as well as a cover of the Heat Mizer song. They didn’t do Snow Miser because they like the hotter sibling of Mother Nature better! For a better idea of their music check out The Locals Web site.

Though I met Steve at OpenLab, I hadn’t heard his music until after I got back from the event. Even after hearing his, it wasn’t until I saw him perform that I truly appreciated his art. He plays the bass unlike I have seen before, and it’s hard for me to describe it. On his Web site’s home page is the words “New-Age Post-Rock Ambient-Jazz Solo-Bass” and if that’s not enough of a hook I don't know what is. He uses equipment and looping techniques to make it sound like there’s more than one musician playing.

Lobelia is an amazing singer and guitar player. She has a very soulful sound and her own original songs reflected this. Her cover of “You Spin Me Round” by Dead or Alive had everyone who was a fan of the 80’s in disbelief! She has also learned looping techniques from her husband and integrated them well into one of her own songs. Check out her Web site and listen!

photo of Lobelia Lawson Mike Maddaloni and Steve LawsonNeedless to say, it was a unique event and wished it didn't end. It was great to see Steve again and meet Lobelia. I also appreciated the hospitality of The Locals and got to know of a great local band. As I was leaving, I made a comment how there should be more house concerts, but being in Chicago I bet the pols would find a way to try to regulate and of course tax it! I got a few hisses from people, but Steve acknowledged that this is also happening in the UK. But in these times where thinking outside of the box is required, I hope more will be able to experience a house concert soon!


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