Last week, several of my singer-songwriting colleagues and myself gathered in a bar and shared original music to a quiet, attentive audience. And this was a bar that specializes in rock, punk, country, and blues, so this was far from some already-quiet coffee shop or house concert. We announced and promoted the concert as a “listening event,” kindly posting that talking was to be kept to a minimum. On the night of the show, one of the performers introduced the show, stating that we wanted to keep talking limited to the breaks in between sets and, of course, for ordering drinks. Aside from a few points where one of us had to ask a few people to quiet down, the evening was an incredible success. We raised significant dough for an important charity, had more personal interaction with the audience, and aside from a couple folks that were annoyed with the “please be quiet” reminders, everyone was incredibly pleased by the show.
There’s a time for loud, drunken concerts, certain music is meant more as background music, and any seasoned performer will have developed a thick skin when it comes to audiences. People are gonna request “Freebird,” talk during the show, fart, and heckle. That’s life.
Still, just like we need rowdy shows and need to keep concerts social events, we absolutely and I’d argue URGENTLY need more events that are quiet, intimate, and song-centric. I worry that, in a world of selfies, chatter, the enormous worth we currently afford to constant socializing, many of us have lost the ability to quietly, comfortably sit still and give every second of our focus to the performer and their music.
So here’s a list of 8 reasons why quiet concerts are not only needed, but well-worth the focus that listeners invest in them.
1. Quiet concerts depend upon a close connection between audience and performer(s).
It’s almost a little weird when you first attend a smaller, quieter show. We’ve all been to concerts and have felt like the singer was speaking directly to us. At listening rooms, they actually are.
2. The lyrical content of the music is better heard in these environments.
As a result, listeners get a more holistic experience of each song. Listening rooms, quiet concerts, house shows etc. are exercises in music appreciation that will change how you understand music. Seriously
3. They truly are QUIET.
Life gets noisy, whether we want it to or not. In a listening room setting, we each have a direct opportunity to step into a quiet space, get comfortable, and get inspired.
4. Musicians actually enjoy playing these shows.
I’ve talked to so many musicians, both as a performer and the many I’ve talked to via this site. Without exception, almost all of them seem to be tired of only playing noisy shows where the socializing, rather than the songs, are given center stage. Some musicians are only doing house shows as a direct response to disillusionment with louder, chattier concert experiences.
5. It’s easier to meet other music fans and musicians.
Seriously. I’ve both attended and played at a lot of house shows, listening rooms, etc. Since time is often specifically set aside to chat, enjoy food together, etc. you can have great conversations and connections with the people attending. Also, in most cases the featured musician sticks around to hang out with attendees.
6. You get to enter places and experience things you never would otherwise.
I‘ve seen so many unusual, beautiful homes and small venues, ate delicious food that I can’t even pronounce, and enjoyed evenings of music that were unlike any I’ve had before.
7. When it comes to smaller venues and house shows, you are directly supporting musicians with your attention AND your money.
Unless the concert is poorly organized or has too many performers, musicians can make a nice chunk of change at these events and in turn sustain their music careers.
8. The music sounds INCREDIBLE.
Seriously. Something about the small, cozy living rooms, with their wooden walls, floors and intimacy makes the music sound incredible. Also, quiet nights at usually-loud bars can improve communication between performers and the person running sound. Since it’s assumed that more attention will be given by the audience. those involved often become especially detailed in order to get the best sound.
There are plenty of other reasons why we need more listening rooms, quiet concerts, house shows, song-centric evening. But I hope this has given you a spark of curiosity in this approach to performance.