Home Sweet House Shows: A Look into Abode Performances  

(Oliver Perez)

“Whose house is this…?” 

This is a question you might ask yourself as you step foot into the yard of a friendly stranger who decided to host your favorite band’s next show. Luckily, you and your friend were able to snatch the very last spot in the packed driveway; you pity the fella with multiple vehicles stationed behind him, for it’s going to be a tough departure for that guy. When you make it to the front door, you notice a piece of copy paper with a printed arrow pointing to the home’s side entrance. By the wired fence, you are greeted not by some towering muscular security guard but by some scrawny dude named Paul collecting your fee. Next to him, you see his equally awkward-looking partner as she doodles on your hand with a black permanent marker to signify your entry. As you keep walking, you peek your head around the corner to inevitably gaze upon the crowded patio. The makeshift stage catches your eye, undoubtedly standing out amongst the homegrown avocado trees and IKEA fairy lights that someone’s mom definitely picked out. A mess of red solo cups, arbitrary conversations, and that familiar smokey smell overwhelms your senses, before you instinctively duck the sticky ping pong ball flies towards your head. 

“Well…I’m glad it’s not my place.” 

As long as there has been music, there have been homes used to present those very same tunes.  We have all seen those stereotypical movie parties with the chaotic young musicians taking advantage of their parent’s temporary departures (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,  anyone?). Even as a kid, I remember watching my own cousin perform with her band during family events, eager for a safe place and a kind crowd to play for. In fact, Within Brian Slattery’s article on house concerts, he mentions “soirees…and dances at country cabins,” in addition to how the “early jazz scene was full of house shows.” Like many individuals, he praises these types of concerts and even claims that these performances are vital to keeping the music scene alive. Flashback to the Harlem Renaissance, where “rent parties” were prevalent within the Black community in an effort to raise money to afford the rising housing prices. These very same shindigs had a significant influence on the growth of blues and jazz music and can be considered to be the origin of house shows. However, as an avid concertgoer, I believe it is necessary to contemplate the fascinating yet problematic aspects of these kinds of shows. 

Though I have painted a bit of a disorderly picture of what house shows can be like, there’s charm to the mayhem. Being inside a person’s house/property can bring an odd sort of comfort you wouldn’t get at a local bar or club. There is a sense of intimacy for both the concert goer as well as the musician; everyone who is there wants to be there, unlike a pretentious coffee shop where the audience is more worried about their order than the music. Within the noisy walls, you are likely to be surrounded by like-minded folks who want to check out what our South Florida scene has to offer. Many of these events can be physically more comfortable due to the presence of cozy couches, chairs, and solid air conditioning. I, personally, really enjoy when the homeowner has cute pets you can entertain yourself with in between sets. Through the perspective of the performers, it can also be a lot easier to book a house show than it is to secure one at a public venue. Age limits within these properties have hindered both musicians and audience members, leading to smaller crowds and incomplete ensembles. The majority of venues can be extremely picky as to what kind of bands they allow into their businesses. On top of that,  groups of heavier genres struggle to be accepted into these spaces due to the bias people have towards listeners of punk/metal music (not including the higher possibility of our infamous mosh pits). This can very well explain why hardcore shows in Florida tend to only go on in very few spots up north while the south most parts prefer a more popular vibe for its more touristy areas. American Legion Post 92, a go-to hardcore venue, has an entire room sectioned off from the main veteran’s bar just to keep any chaos separate from its usual customers. At a house show, a band can not only create their own safe space, but additionally have the artistic freedom to look how they want, sound how they want, and (almost) do what they want. But with all this independence, trouble is bound to occur. 

In the few abode performances I have attended, I usually left unscathed and with few complaints.  Nonetheless, there are still multiple issues one should acknowledge as we get older and explore more facets of the local alternative scene. First and foremost, you are at a stranger’s house…and  I already briefly detailed how annoying the parking can be. Your “ticket”, AKA the smudged Sharpie on your hand, easily washes off unlike the tangible wristband that is usually provided at venues. Plus, don’t get me started on how much of a nightmare the bathroom situation can be since there is usually only ONE bathroom open to ALL guests (if you are even fortunate enough to have a host who is comfortable allowing individuals into their restrooms). The lack of security guards alone can be extremely frightening since there is no dependable system in place to take care of any unwanted happenings. Though danger can happen in both public and private venues, a security team sure helps with both emotional as well as physical safety. The nature of these events also involves very loud noises that most neighbors are not a fan of. The chances of your concert getting raided by the police after granny’s various noise complaints are a lot higher than you think. I have had my fair share of stories, including the time the whole set got canceled by local authorities right before I could exit my own car. Furthermore, I have additionally witnessed a massive underage population within a lot of these house shows, which naturally alarms me as an adult woman. Those very same limits that may have stopped young music lovers from experiencing the scene are also there to keep these kids out of harm’s way. And as someone who has spent a pretty penny on drinks at the local bars, I can appreciate some free water and seltzers, but not when those same alcoholic drinks are being handed down to minors. 

Do I think house shows should be completely discouraged and looked down upon? Absolutely not! But I do think that it is the responsibility of concert-goers to be aware of the environments we are creating and choosing to reside in. I fear that I may sound a little lame, especially since I was that very same young kid that once begged my cousin to take me to her local shows. I  understand the frustration of getting kicked out of a bar immediately after the concert is finished.  I can totally get how a coffee shop performance could never compare to the thrill of moshing inside someone’s poorly lit living room. In spite of both the pros and cons, I want to shed light on the importance of keeping each other safe yet satisfied. So, whether you’re headbanging by some random family’s portraits or grooving at some unknown kava bar, I implore my readers to stay vigilant, have a good time, and to definitely use the bathroom before hitting the town to attend one of the numerous local house shows within our scene.


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