House Show Rules #2: Bringing Common Sense

artforspastics Aug 26 2009 1:02P 1

I had intended to post this as a comment following the "House Show Rules #1: No Jerks!" blogpost, but then it sorta became an essay.

Boom Boom Kid @ the Sea Shanty, 2007.
As someone who's thrown a few hundred shows in houses over the last decade and a half, I gotta say that house-show hosts must be aware of the risks of turning their home into a public space, such as cops, assholes, theft, electrical fire, damage to walls and floors, giant messes to clean up, and even violence. The solution is not so simple as complaining about jerks on a corner of the internet (such as here!) which will go unchecked by likely every such jerk who needs to check their attitude.

The solution surely begins with considering what risks are associated with each show before you even confirm it. Does a particular band have a following that is known to include a fair amount of knuckleheads? Is the band extremely loud? Does the band draw droves of people numbering far beyond the amount that can squeeze inside your house? If any of these risk factors are running high.....then is it worth the risk?

In my mind, I only wanna do house-shows if they're somehow important...i.e., the bands are gonna be so great or so fun that I'm willing to assume the risk of cops or damage or neighbor problems; I'm personally gonna enjoy myself so much that I don't mind the hassles and potential problems; AND, perhaps also, the special environment of a house-show is really the best possible situation in which the show should occur. At the main house where I've been involved as booker/promoter for the last 12 years--not in Portland, but in Davis, CA, where the DAM House has been doing shows consistently since 1989--we have never had a show that sucked, and most live on as legend, and only two shows in the last 12 years have ended due to police interference, and very few household items have been damaged or stolen. The effort has been so worth it that the DAM House funmakers have continued buying mass beers and treats for guests and furiously cleaning the day after shows this far into our mid-30s.

13th Victim @ DH13, 2007.
Yet, I've certainly observed the coming 'n going (more like crashing 'n burning) of house-show venues that have taken the attitude of "LET'S REALLY GO FOR IT!", booking shows once or twice (or more) per week, to become a bright-burning party mecca for a brief time. There's a place here in Sacto lately getting to be like that somewhat, and the result has been that several shows recently draw few people, and then when the cops come to break up a show with 10 people hanging around, I cynically think about how this show woulda been better off not even happening. Yet, this house and its head of household/chief funmaker talks about shows there being sustainable. She does after all own the place and figures to live there for a long, long time. So, I've told her that she needs to learn to say "no" when bands or promoters ask her to host a show that could just as easily happen somewhere else. Or not at all without disappointing anyone, really.

It's pretty much unavoidable that any wild or exciting or even kinda-crazy party-type music is concerned, even the most successful shows are somewhat of a pain in the ass. Again, it just has to be worth it that hassle.

Also, more often than not, when there are problems with neighbors threatening you or calling the cops, that is usually not because of the loudness of the music but rather the loudness of the people outside in the yard....or even the people spilling over into your neighbors' yards. You gotta be ready and willing to police that shit yourself.

As for overly large unmanageable crowds and crazy unsavory people, then I suppose the only way you can avoid that is to limit the scope of your promotion so that your show is not-so-public. Of course, then you run the risk of being accused of exclusivity, or having a poorly attended show.

I've also found that if your house doesn't look like a disaster area when you walk in, strangers will not try to fuck it up too much. So some extra effort in pre-cleaning goes a long way. Hell, the same goes for your neighbors' impression of your house! If your house looks like the black eye of the neighborhood, of course the uppity mortgage-paying folks on your street are gonna hate you! So start early by keeping things looking decent. Go pull some weeds right when your uppity neighbor walks his or her dog past you. Smile at them and say hi. Make it seem like you wanna be part of the fabric of the neighborhood or whatever. Those kindsa neighbors love that kinda shit. You don't hafta become friends with them....just enough to say hello. This will pay off when they have issues because with some kinda rapport, they may be willing to confront you before calling the cops.

talk about it …

1 Comment

  1. Well said.

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