A House with No Name Up-and-Coming Folk Singers Bypass the Clubs to Play the Living-Room Circuit

Article excerpt

Too tired to drive your overworked backside to Off Broadway or Focal Point for your monthly dose of folk music? Sick of fighting traffic and bouncers and loud-mouthed drunks for the privilege of sitting in a smoke-filled nightclub and hearing some second-rate storyteller warble about his latest broken romance? Wouldn't it be nice if the best folk singers in the country set up their instruments in your own living room and played a set for just you and your friends?

In St. Louis as well as the rest of the country, this sort of thing is already happening. You just may not know about it yet.

The quietest trend in folk music today is the so-called house concert a a private, living-room recital for the dedicated elite of the folk community. It's not a new ideaahouse concerts were common in St. Louis in the 1970s, and the concept of rent parties, house parties and private recitals has been around for decades, if not centuriesabut today the house-concert phenomenon is a means for up-and-coming songwriters to tour the United States, bypassing the club scene and connecting directly with their fans. "If a performer can play for 20 people at five dollars a head, then sell some CDs afterwards and have a place to stay for the night, it works out better than if he played at a nightclub," says Clint Harding, a longtime folk-music fan and host of the Blue Highways Saturday morning show on KDHX-FM. "It's been a popular idea along the East Coast for several years, and it's just starting to catch on here." He estimates that he has hosted or attended between eight and 10 house concerts in the last year. Harding has made the propagation of the house-concert idea his personal mission a although he stresses that any advertising for such shows is usually done by word-of-mouth between like-minded individuals. Often, it's simply a matter of the host telephoning the people that he or she thinks will be interested. Whereas, in the 1920s, the term "house party" signified a long night of bathtub gin and barrelhouse jazz, contemporary house concerts offer what Harding calls "light refreshment" in a low-key, living-room setting for 30 people or less. …