So far I’ve written only about traditional music venues and festivals. But it’s time to start talking about the beauty of house concerts. To the uninitiated, a house concert might seem like a strange undertaking – show up to a stranger’s house, see live music in their living room, use their bathroom. To the devotee, this is the only way to see musicians you love and share an intimate listening experience.
To the folksinger, house concerts are the absolute bread and butter.
You play your songs for a completely attentive crowd, you are fed a home-cooked meal, and offered a comfortable bed for the night. All the money usually goes to the artist, audience members generally buy CDs, and a good time is generally had by all. I have had a few less-than-ideal experiences at house concerts, but 95% have been nothing short of wonderful.
At a house concert, there is no separation between the artist and the audience – it’s a memorable night we all create together. That is the way folk music was meant to be heard: a group of strangers in a warm living room with a shared meal, often lifting their voices together, and then saying goodbye as friends.
Fox Run House Concerts offers that kind of experience. It’s just a half-hour outside of Boston in a pastoral neighborhood with winding streets. I have only played at Fox Run once with the lovely Rebecca Loebe, but this place is legendary.
Run by the ever-present folk photographer Neale Eckstein and his gracious wife, Laurie, they do their home in a resounding purple color with plenty of space for a crowd. They’ve got a long dining table for potlucks and a nice back room with a complete sound system for the shows. The audience is welcomed warmly and is well-trained to listen and participate when appropriate.
The reason I wanted to start with Fox Run, in my coverage of house concerts, is that they’ve been hosting for almost 20 years. The first show they hosted was with Ellis Paul in August 1997. They are a venerable establishment at this point with one hundred percent of each $20 ticket going straight to the artist.
I remember being a young folk thing at 23, sending them an email, asking to play at their house on my first tour. Neale responded that they only book artists they’ve seen live. They have to know it’s the right fit for their series. That’s a pretty common response from house concert hosts, since they’re inviting an entire scene into their living room.
Another thing that is very special about Fox Run is the basement – Neale has an entire working recording studio down there, complete with bunches of great instruments. Hung on the walls are photos of every artist that has played their series since 1997. Neale has produced records for all sorts of contemporary folksingers there.
This is what happens when you bring the music into the community: everyone benefits.
If you live near Boston and want to hear your favorite artists in a truly intimate environment, check out Neale and Laurie and Fox Run House Concerts.
Photo: Amy Speace, Fox Run House Concerts