House Concerts: An Intimate Way to Enjoy Live Music

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A crowd watches Tennessee duo Blue Mother Tupelo at a house concert in Hoover recently. House concerts are an intimate way to watch live music without distractions.
A crowd watches Tennessee duo Blue Mother Tupelo at a house concert in Hoover recently. House concerts are an intimate way to watch live music without distractions.

Esther Ciammachilli,WBHM

Imagine attending a concert in the comfort of your home surrounded by dozens of friends both old and new. That’s what it’s like hosting a house concert. This tradition has been around for decades and is a popular way to enjoy music in an intimate setting.

The Tennessee husband and wife duo Blue Mother Tupelo belts out a soulful tune while a small crowd claps along.

The room is dim, illuminated only by a neon light and leg lamp like the one made famous in a popular Christmas movie. About 70 people are crowded into the large living room at Paul and Wendy Walters’ home in Hoover. On this night, their house is a performance space. Paul Walters, who’s also a musician, says they’ve hosted dozens of house concerts over the years.

“It’s just a great thing as far as not being in a bar, a smoky bar,” he says. “You get the attention of the performer. They have an audience which is going to sit there and listen. They’re not going to talk. It’s a very intimate experience.”

Walters says the guest list is limited to a few dozen people who’ve attended their house concerts before. A person gets an email and maybe decides to bring someone new.

“You sort of gotta put it out there,” Walters says. “I mean, each time we definitely have some new people show up. But again, it started as a core group of people I trust. In life today, I think a lot of people are not trusting of the environment around them, but my wife Wendy and I, we are very trusting people.”

House concerts provide just the right ambiance for music like Blue Mother Tupelo. Blues, folk, Americana, however you classify it, these genres are perfect for setting a mellow mood, where guests can just sit back and enjoy the music. Blue Mother Tupelo guitarist Ricky Davis says playing house concerts is one of their favorite things to do, “because the people in a house concert, they’re there to listen to the songs and the stories in the songs or the stories behind the songs or whatever. As compared to playing in some nightclub where you’re fighting TV screens and all this other stuff.”

And Davis says these are great places to let their music breathe, “improvise a little bit more and feel a little bit more free. If we’re at a festival and we’ve got an hour set or an hour and half set every song has got to be kind of reeled in. And we kind of like to spread our wings a little bit, musically.”

The audience enjoys that too. During a short intermission, Ashley Hulsey Coutch was absorbing the first set. This was her fist house concert and she says as a musician, she understands the nuances that can get lost in public venues.

“The things, finessing that they’re doing with the tambourine at the end and slowing down and being very like capturing the audience completely. It’s hard to do that in a bar,” Coutch says.

If you’re considering hosting a house concert here are some tips: Make sure your neighbors are cool with it. Also consider the parking situation in your neighborhood. Hosts usually charge a cover, all of which often goes to the performers. You don’t need a green room, but you might need a place for musicians to relax and possibly stay the night. Paul Walters says this a great way to hear their stories and get to know the people who make the world sound good.

If you’d like to hear more of Blue Mother Tupelo, the duo will be playing Sunday afternoon, April 23, in Phelan Park in Birmingham.