Secret House Shows
On 9 November, we put on a show we’ve been wanting to do for a LONG while. In an undisclosed location somewhere in Cheltenham, a show known only to 30 people by word of mouth (and a secret Facebook group) took place with one of THE most exciting live bands around at the moment, Gabby Young And Other Animals.
House shows are becoming more popular in the UK but have been a more established fixture of the live music scene in North America and Europe for a while now.
But what’s the attraction of a house show? What do they offer that traditional shows at regular venues don’t? Best to look at it from three different perspectives - the promoter, the artist and the audience.
This offers a departure from the usual places. While you can’t beat the atmosphere in a packed-out venue, there’s an intimacy and warmth to doing a show in a house which would be hard to create elsewhere.
In a sense, the space you have to play with for a house show is more adaptable so you have more creative control over how the show will look and feel. You can create a space and atmosphere that feels special and out of the ordinary and also something that reflects the nature of the band.
Entrance to the secret house show
It also requires a different way of promoting. Space for a house show will be limited - in our case to approximately 30. So it’s not a case of shedding blood and tears trying to get 200 to buy a ticket. Also, the idea for our shows is that they’re secret. Obviously, we take some liberties with the term ‘secret’ otherwise no-one would be turn up but it does present some challenges.
We have to do it by word of mouth and by a closed group on Facebook which is invite only. So we can’t splash it across all our social media channels and put posters up around town as we might do normally. This gives us an exciting and different way to promote things.
Finally, we’re able to provide a more personal and bespoke experience for both the artist and the audience where there can be more of a connection during the performance and also before and after when everyone can chat and have a bite to eat and a drink or two in homely surroundings.
Whether you’re an act playing local pubs and bars or someone who’s touring large venues for weeks on end, a house show is a refreshing change of scenery.
If you’re used to the pub/bar circuit, you’ll also be used to your fair share of disinterested drinkers whose lips will only part from their glass to talk VERY loudly over you or to shout out requests for Oasis or Robbie Williams (seriously, if you’ve never done that to an act playing their own material, you should - they LOVE it. Really.) Admittedly not all pubs are like that and you can get a good atmosphere in the right bar but it often does require a thick skin and rictus grin to get through your set list.
If you’re lucky enough to be playing to hundreds or thousands of people every night there can sometimes be a feeling that you’re not entirely connecting with the sea of people in front of you. An existence where you’re going from dressing room, to stage, to dressing room to tour bus is a lifestyle many a musician would kill for and it has many rewards but for some it can take its toll.
Gabby Young And Other Animals at our first secret house show
So in either situation, the chance to play a house show where you’ve got an appreciative crowd of 30-40 people captivated by your music and for whom it feels like you’re putting on a personal performance is one not many artists would pass up.
Money-wise they can be good news too. Whether tickets are sold in advance or people are asked for a donation on the night, they can often prove to be more financially rewarding than a regular show especially if you have merchandise to sell too.
As already mentioned, a house show allows an audience to connect with the artist in a way they wouldn’t normally be able to during a performance. It’s a mixture of a gig and having someone over for a night in. Depending on the act, it could be a rare opportunity to rub shoulders with one of your musical idols or at the very least, a chance to get to meet news acts and find out more about them.
It’s also a lot more relaxed than a traditional show. You don’t need to get dressed up especially or bother about fighting your way to the bar. It can also work out a lot cheaper than going to a show at a traditional venue as you can bring your own drinks rather than paying bar prices and you’re limited to what you’ve brought so you won’t be tempted into a deadly round of Jägerbombs just before the bar closes.
There’s no rush to leave after a performance either, so you won’t have security or bar staff trying to rush you out the door if it’s gone past closing time.
There seems to be a growing appetite among artists and fans for more house shows. We’re aiming to do more over the next few months - both music and spoken word. If you keep your ear to the ground, hopefully we’ll see you at our next one. Mum’s the word and all that…