My very first house concert. I'd heard about the concept of house concerts before, but never in the UK. The concept is simple; an artist is invited to play someone's front room, a small charge is made, all the money goes to the artist, and in return the audience get to experience a very intimate concert.
But even knowing this, as I made my way to the village of XXXXXXXXX (I could tell you, but then you'd want to come along as well) the other night, I was still expecting to turn up to a rather big house, maybe so with some kind of barn conversion mini venue out the back to see The Woodentops.
Nope, nothing of the sort. It's a tiny village, in complete darkness and I walked tentatively along a narrow path desperately trying to work out which of the picture postcard cottages was the venue for the gig. Thankfully they had the lights on and a small crowd of people in the front garden having a pre-gig fag. Inside it was lovely, totally bizarre, but lovely. In I went, straight into someone's front room and into their kitchen/diner. Sure, it was a big kitchen/diner but not ridiculously so. The guitars and sound desk were in the far corner, the crowd of about 40 of us seated around the room, or perched where we could; the stairs, behind the kitchen island or leaning on the oven.
And what a gig it was. The Woodentops were a band I was introduced to in the late 80s at school. The albums Giant and Wooden Foot Cops On The Highway have been favourites ever since. But I've never seen them live. And okay, technically, after Saturday night, I still haveen't seen The Woodentops live, since it was only lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Rolo McGinty and bassist Mal playing live. But bloody hell, there really was no way they could have fitted a full 5 piece in the room anyway.
But even though it was only a 2 piiece and advertised as an accoustic gig, Rolo still did his very best to do severe damage to the eardrums in the room, working his guitar into a noisy, beautiful frenzy of feedback and noise in the tiny room. They did some of the hits, they did some new stuff, they did some bloody weird stuff. Bathosphere - what felt like 15 minutes of ambient noise and feedback as Rolo took us on a journey down to the Marianas trench in a bathosphere - and if that sounds bizarre and rubbish to you, that's only because you weren't there. I was leaning against a door, eyes closed and I just completely relaxed - bliss.
It was a wonderful gig, the hosts were lovely, the venue was intimate and comfortable. But there was one fly in the ointment; the knob who turned up drunk and proceeded to act like he was at a gig in a few thousand seat venue. Because the last thing you want in a room of 40 people and a band playing an intimate gig is some dick singing along at the top of his voice. Yes, we know you're a fan, you've pointed it out loudly to the singer between every song so far - no please, please, PLEASE shut up. Obviously, being polite folks, it took a few songs before anyone did anything - that is, if you call tutting loudly doing something. But eventually even this polite, quiet crowd spoke up and every time he opened his drunk mouth he got a resounding "Please shut up" (always a please - so polite). This worked for a song or so, but the bloke was so stupidly drunk that it wasn't long before he started again.
But aside from that minor flaw, it was something I'd definitely do again, and I'd say find your own house concerts near you - they're a great new experience.