What makes house shows worth hosting?

As an underclassman Barrett student, I couldn’t wait to leave the dorm rooms and live in a house off-campus. I waited, dreamed and found two people I love living with. But this story isn’t one of an eighth of an acre of property and a monthly rent check, it is one of (sometimes) raucous bands playing to a sweaty crowd in our living room just south of ASU’s Tempe campus. I am, of course, referring to the humble house show.

These are events when residents open their doors (yes, literally all of them) and backyards to local bands, the people and organizations that book those artists and community members who like to listen to one hell of a set. 

I’m here to share the wealth of knowledge that my roommates and I have accumulated from hosting, by our estimate, 20 of these events over the 18 months that we’ve lived off-campus. For scale, we've had local group Red Tank! play here three times. 

Creative writing senior Zachariah Webb, one of my roommates, said that hosting a house show requires a certain amount of recklessness, or turning over control to complete strangers and bands that entertain them.

“The show is bigger than you; you’re just an attendee drifting about who happens to know where the extra paper towels are,” he said. “This is not to say, of course, that someone shouldn’t be keeping an eye out for unruly crowds (and) broken glass.”

He recalled wanting to start having these events because of the high barrier of entry to some local bands for space in which to perform.

“I think we were drawn to helping give bands an actual space to play,” he said. “It’s also a great excuse to see a lot of not only local but touring bands — I only have to travel as far as my living room.”

Webb said that his favorite show was a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, affectionately (and, if i may) cleverly called “Bernie, Man!

“It was at a time when I was a touch anxious that the Tempe ‘scene’ was all about hip appearances and might not be drawn to an event with a political bent, but so many people came, and we raised over $500 for the Sanders campaign,” he said.

Webb’s tips for the uninitiated house show hosts and hostesses included stocking toilet paper, making water available, hiding anything of value (we once had two pink lawn flamingos stolen from us) and leaving notes on immediate neighbor’s doors to notify them of the noise.

English linguistics junior Miles Kent, my other roommate, added a similar note on the toilet paper stockage, as well as a few other things he’s picked up.

“Clean up that night, because you’ll thank yourself in the morning,” he said. “Unless it’s a weird day, it doesn’t need to cost more than $5.”

Kent said he enjoys hosting shows in our home because it offers a controlled environment from which to see local bands perform. Local artists, especially from younger, poorer artistic communities like students, benefit from the pooling of resources from their surrounding, he said.

“It’s more helpful to the artist community than anything else," he said. "It’s a cheap thing and successful night out for someone like me."

Kent offered some advice on what it takes to host a show, and it may not come as music to some people’s ears.

“To have a house show you have to be ready to not have a good time, in that it could easily turn stressful in seconds,” he said. “Being aware of your own space and your space relative to others is important.”

As for me, I’m happy that we’ve been able to host both bands and a local community that supports them. We’ve had local yokels Red Tank! launch a tour in our home, and rap group Injury Reserve played its first house show on Halloween in 2014. Following an art show after party that we hosted here, the group even shot a music video in the house and yard (I’ve embedded it below).

It doesn’t take a lot these days to see a band perform at an anonymous music venue to thousands of people, and that makes the sense of community and artistry all the more close to home when we host a house show in our little blue rented house on Vista Del Cerro Drive.

Correction: The reporter previously stated that Injury Reserve performed its first show in his home.  It was brought to our attention that it was not Injury Reserve's first show, but its first house show, and the article has been altered to reflect this fact.

Related Link:

TUF Talk: Best of Music Venues & Local Bands


Ask the reporter your house show questions at pnorthfe@asu.edu or follow @peternorthfelt on Twitter.

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