Tyler Gregorchick and Mark Kephardt perform at a house show held in Christian Freeberg's basement.
(Photo courtesy of Christian Freeberg's facebook page.)
I was wracking my brain for ideas to write about for a blog this week, when I happened upon a Facebook invitation for a music performance hosted by my friend Chris Freeberg's (senior, communications media) house. As I realized I was missing the event, it struck me that these so-called "house shows" are sort of a college phenomenon. From frat houses to hipster havens like Freeberg's basement, college students love to watch other college students play their guitars. So I called up Chris and we sat down at Commonplace Coffeehouse, often a venue for free-spirited music itself, to discuss his personal inspiration for musical collaboration.
Freeberg is a music enthusiast and singer/songwriter, who hosts other musical artists at his house from time to time, thus the term "house show." I searched for a more offical definition online and found that "house show" is also a term for untelevised professional wrestling matches. Thanks, Wikipedia.
I have attended a couple of his house shows and have always enjoyed the open, relaxed atmosphere. I always feel that the experience is much more personal at such events, especially considering the close quarters. Some artists are fellow IUP students, while some have even ventured in from the Pittsburgh area.
Freeberg was inspired to start playing with other musicians in his own basement by going to other party house shows, he said. The first he attended like his was called "Dan's Basement" in Pittsburgh where he listened to a one-man band called Dandelion Snow, who has since made an appearance at Freeberg's.
Freeberg's first show was last fall semester, he said, when he and Colin O'Brien along with IUP alum Diego Byrnes teamed up to present a few songs each. They did it just because they didn't have any other place to play and wanted to get together with other music lovers and perform, without the time restriction of open mic night.
His house show debut included just a few close friends and the performers, he said. His shows now have a reputation, and his house on Locust street in Indiana is appropriately nicknamed "The Green House." He hosts shows 1-2 times a semester, with a minimum crowd of about 10-15, but record attendance is 40, he said. Large crowds have an advantage because local bands gain exposure, he said. But the smaller turnouts have their upside as well.
"Small crowds are fun too because it's more intimate," he said. "Usually it's closer friends who are there who have been to shows before."
Freeberg, whose greatest musical influence is Dustin Kensrue of Thrice, is piloting his own new music project titled "Heavy Hearts Will Anchor." It is music based on a story he wrote revolving around the idea that, "no matter how far away from your problems you get, if you don't deal with them, they'll weigh you down," he said. You can check out his project explanation and lyrics in the "Notes" section of his Facebook page.
Budding musicians like Freeberg get plenty of feedback online throug sites like Facebook and Myspace. But in my opinion, house shows are the perfect place to try out new material. The audiences are generally small and accepting, and if mistakes happen, they happen. It's better to mess up in front of your friends than in a bar full of uninviting strangers or a huge crowd. And audience member have a special advantage: Getting a sneak peak at unreleased, new or experiemental material you may not hear elsewhere.