- On a recent Saturday night in this Washington suburb, about three dozen people pack the home of Sherri and Richard Weil.
Concert-goers bring the chips, dip and beer. A basket is set out for the suggested $10 to $12 donation for the musicians, and the living room, dining room and family room are filled with people wanting to hear folk music.
With few venues willing to hire folk acts and few middle-class suburbanites willing to make the schlep downtown, search out parking and elbow other patrons to get the bartender’s attention, folk house concerts are quietly spreading like wildfire with the help of e-mail and Internet advertising.
On this particular night, there are two acts. Up first are inexperienced and sometimes tentative singer/songwriters Rick Dahl and Audrey Morris, who play original and cover songs. They are followed by the more polished Tom Espinola on guitar and Kristen Jones on steel pans, who do mostly traditional music.
The musicians play on a small stage in part of the kitchen. The audience sits one step down on borrowed folding chairs in what is usually the family room.
The largely 50-something audience listens intently and happily sings along when asked. There’s no cash register ringing and no espresso machine hissing. Other than music, the only noise is the family dog’s single burst of barking.
In other words, it’s perfect for the serious music lover.
“It’s great music two blocks from the house,” said Kathy Dorman, a historian at the Smithsonian Institution. “I don’t drink that much and I hate smoke. And in bars, people are talking and drinking and not paying attention.”
….The difference is that now with e-mail lists, it costs little or nothing to advertise a house concert to hundreds of people. Sending out a note to a so-called list serve of people who share a common interest is considerably easier and reaches many more people than stapling fliers to telephone poles.
“The Internet has been a boon,” says Cliff, who adds: “It’s (house concerts) always been around, in and out within the folk community.”
An Internet search of the term “house concert” produces 15,900 hits.
This is a far cry from American Idol and proves that the Internet’s impact is more pervasive and subtle than many people realize, and bolsters Janis Ian’s claims that out of the mainstream artists can only gain from exposure via the Internet.