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Depth & Current - Dysrhythmia

"Overproduced" is a term thrown around all too indiscreetly nowadays, usually applied when the thing that sticks out about a song or album is how it sounds rather than how it is constructed. Yet some of the most compelling albums ever crafted embodied a certain aesthetic that was just as skillfully and meticulously put together as any Bob Dylan or Miles Davis record — which is to say production is as crucial to our enjoyment of music as much as anything else; it's also the most overlooked.
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Home · Articles · Music · Music · House calls
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House calls


Danny Marroquin January 12th, 2011

For the most intimate of musical experiences, house concerts — literally right in someone’s living room — are where it’s at.

Anyone fed up with the aloof, crossarmed music experience might do well to get themselves invited to a Blue Moon House Concert. They are invitation-only, but it’s easy to snag one: Friend “Blue Moon House Concerts” on Facebook.

The place is typically peopled by folks who live for the song — which, by default, are often the boomers with a deep connection to Texas-country folk rock. But, one also gets a nice crosssection of the young singer/songwriters, including Oklahoma City’s Samantha Crain and Kelly B, or Tulsa’s Jared Tyler.

In the kitchen, there’s a guy in a beret cursing at nationally televised coverage of Shariah law. A few sepia-toned visitors who arrived by bike absorb music while dipping into the potluck offerings. The lights are dimmed; Elizabethan-style floppy velvet hats hang from busy shrines. Candles, rugs, bookshelves and ancient photos are bordered by cabinets holding art supplies. With wood floors and padded chairs close to the microphone, the setup is acoustically agreeable.

It’s a private place to listen closely to music.

“Singer-songwriters want you to listen. People feel comfortable here,” said Tara Feuerborn, who lives at the home in Northwest Oklahoma City. “You know, songwriters like to tell stories. There’s a reason why they prefer it. It’s more family like. There’s usually a potluck waiting for them. They’re satiated.”

And she knows the particular task of keeping house and catering to the artist, having run the now-defunct Blue Moon on Paseo. She learned immediately how exhausting it grew to support the talent while keeping a restaurant and bar functioning. Now, keeping the artist under her own roof has eased the task; the talent can sleep upstairs and not have to worry about a place to eat.

“It’s all about hospitality,” she said.

“This is where we can pamper them. It didn’t cost us much.”

House concerts are a growing movement in an age when densely scheduled touring is a necessity for working musicians. Audience members can slip in without paying a cover that usually compensates owner expenses and the supporting artists. Feuerborn gives the artists 100 percent of donations collected at the door; ASCAP, the musical copyright protection organization, doesn’t make her and other registered house concert volunteers nationwide pay the annual umbrella fee, allowing for cover songs to be played at a venue.

On just about every house concert website, a disclaimer informs that this is a hobby, not a business. One-hundred percent of the suggested donations ($10- $20 a head) goes to the artists, who can make more by selling their merchandise.

PURSUIT OF PASSION

These are passion projects. When one calls the now-disbanding Norman concert house Cobblestone Creek, the dedication shows in the last four digits: 3655, which corresponds to “FOLK.” The house concert movement is also a natural response from those music fans who don’t like public shows. Any hardcore folkie is going to want to hear the ever-endearing banter in between songs, rather than amid the ardent voices of the uninterested and beer bottles clinking.

Russ Paris of Russ & Julie’s House Concerts in Oak Park, Calif., noted that even coffeehouse listeners get deterred by the noise.

“The music at coffeehouses often has to compete with coffee grinders and espresso machines, unlike the focused attention of a house concert audience,” Paris said.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see house concerts grow in number considering today’s regenerative state of the music industry. Musicians are their own selfpromoting machines, for good or ill, and sometimes, they need a quieter place to regain their bearings. A house concert can flesh out a touring schedule in a business with growing emphasis on DIY/social-media strategies.

“House concerts make great ‘filler’ gigs on a tour,” said Paris, who’s hosted them since 1997. “For an artist to fly to a city to do one show, at even a goodsized venue, might be a break-even venture. But add in a house concert the night before — and maybe on the night after — and all off a sudden, the trip is financially worthwhile.”

Local artist K.C. Clifford’s national tours are 60 percent comprised of house concerts. She says rooms like Feuerborn’s and The Blue Door are integral to making stronger connections with an audience.

“I’ve been told when fans leave a show like this, they feel like they got to know me, not just my music,” Clifford said. “And I think that creates a connection that can stand the test of time.”

Feuerborn’s gigs have drawn the attention of some serious songwriters, including Bob Livingston, formerly of the Lost Gonzo Band; David Olney of Nashville, Tenn.; and the Texas country recluse Willis Alan Ramsey, who recorded his career-sustaining only album with Leon Russell. Willis even commissioned her to do the poster art.

At root, Blue Moon’s activities reveal someone doing work by which they really live. There’s little doubt of the personal touch Feuerborn and her husband lend. Getting ready her recent Samantha Crain show, Feuerborn produced from her CD stacks Crain’s barely existent first EP, a reminder of Crain’s first show at the original Blue Moon.

“That song, ‘Hold Each Other Up,’ she doesn’t really play it anymore and doesn’t know it, but me and my staff listened to that over and over when Blue Moon on Paseo was fixing to close,” Feuerborn said. “It really helped us.”

 
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