Music – Happy House Concerts, Driftwood
The hills are alive with the sound of music…and the parks, and the stages and the dance halls and the theaters…and the houses.
I look around, approximately fifty individuals are chatting and snacking and mingling —a party of almost total strangers. Some people know some people, and other people know other people, and some people know no one—they are all here for the love of music. They are here at Happy House Concerts–a concert in someone’s home.
Five years ago, I didn’t even know what a house concert was—now we keep our eyes and ears open, always on the lookout, always putting our names on a list. I am overwhelmed and humbled by the number of amazing artists in our midst, many that are unknown to me. Listening to them I am charmed. I am entertained. I can be blown away—some performances are breathtakingly jaw dropping.
Michael sits beside me, handing a glass of wine my way and offers me a bite of the shared appetizer we brought to the concert. I nibble on the potato with the sour cream-bacon-and-cheese dip, then move on to several other tasty morsels. Everyone attending has brought an appetizer to share—at some house concerts it’s a buffet dinner—other times just desserts, but always, there seems to be shared food.
I get up, walk around, and find a giant gingersnap. Taking a bite, I am in ginger heaven. I am told the cookies are HEB born and bred—their private label brand. A better person than I am, Michael eats fruit. I chat here and there with strangers; I chat with friends.
Dodee and Billy Crockett—the king and queen of house concerts from Blue Rock Recording Studios—are here. They tell me they have come to see their friend, Pierce. I am also told that Pierce was the first singer-songwriter to perform at Blue Rock when they started holding concerts eleven years ago.
At 7 p.m. Pierce Pettis takes the makeshift stage, the living room floor in front of the fireplace; there are letters across the mantel that spell HAPPY. The letters make me smile. Pierce is charming. Self-deprecating. Funny. His lyrics are the soul of a poet.
The intimate setting, sitting, listening, learning—getting to know the man and his music is a wonderful thing. This is something you cannot do in a large concert venue. Pierce grew up in a musical family, gave birth to musical children and has had his songs recorded by Joan Baez, Garth Brooks, Dion and the Belmonts and more.
He tells us he was so poor when he began writing his songs that he ate breakfast sitting on the kitchen floor because he had no furniture. And then one Christmas morning he walked into that same kitchen while sunbeams danced on the walls; looking outside, his gift was a rainbow of colors mirrored in the individual water droplets clinging to the tips of an evergreen outside the window. “Of course,” he says, “I was inspired to write a song.”
It is as wonderful to hear him talk and have the room echo with laughter, as it is to hear his music in a room so still you would think time had stopped.
Suddenly he is singing Happy Birthday to Happy—the nickname of Craig Jenkins, the homeowner—and we all join in. Happy seems to be very much a happy man, his feet are shod in five-finger toe shoes. When I try to tell him, I like his style I am told, “Don’t encourage him.” To celebrate Craig’s special day an assortment of desserts is offered during the break by his wife, Laura.
Music continues to echo softly off the walls and windows till 9:30 when the concert ends and Michael ushers me out the door, while our friend Solon backs up his truck onto the pavement so Michael and Nancy don’t have to step into the tall dark grass in the darker night to enter the truck on the side opposite the driver.
Back home, sitting at my computer, I want to know more about the Pierce Pettis. I find a quote on the Compass Records website which may be the sum of all his parts, “‘The biggest change,” he says of this point in his career “has been getting over myself and realizing this is a job and a craft. And the purpose is not fame and fortune (whatever that is) but simply doing good work.’”
Music seems to be one of the fibers that weave this land together. However, it wasn’t till I moved to South Central Texas that I was confronted with so much musical talent; everywhere we turned there was music—live music—all the time! And then we discovered House Concerts. Intimate, informal gatherings of 25 – 50 individuals who pay a small fee, normally between $20 – $30 per person, with all proceeds going to the artist.
At most concerts, everyone brings a covered dish to share, and a buffet dinner is served before the concert or during intermission. If you like wine with your meal you can bring your own; the host and hostess normally supply lemonade, tea or water.
On the House Concert Connection website, 33 states are listed with names of house concert venues in each of them. Here, it seems, Texas is king with 76 venues listed. The state that has the next highest number is California, with 8 venues listed. We are living in the music capital of the world.
…is relatively new to the fold, and as at any house concert, you can’t just show up. You need to be invited. To be invited you must be on their list. To be on their list you need to send them an email and tell them a little bit about yourself—in many instances, they are opening their home to perfect strangers. So, to get you started, click on the link above, and get your name on a list so you too can start listening, and learning and laughing and maybe, just maybe, be entirely blown away.