Interview with Bob Ostertag


Email interview with experimental sound artist, professor, and activist Bob Ostertag (, about his house concerts in San Francisco. (November 4, 2011) …

How did you decide to start organizing concerts at your house? Where did you get an idea from? And what are your reasons for organizing them?

  1. not enough places for live music.

  2. the places that exist i don’t really like

  3. in particular it bothers me to hear instrumental music needlessly amplified in places that are small enough that amplification is unnecessary.

  4. i like sharing music with friends.

Who did play there?

Carla Kihlstedt

Fred Frith

Jon Rose

Evan Parker

Mark Dresser

Gerry Hemingway

Jeff Zeigler

Our Lady J

Trauma Flintstone

Jim Magee

How do you promote the event?

i invite my friends

Who is the audience (demographics)? And how many?

we get between 20 and 50. neighbors, friends, other musicians, etc.

Can you describe a typical concert at your house (how it proceeds)?

we have pot luck dinner at 7:30, music in the living room at 9. they play as long or as short as they like. we pass a hat for them, though the musicians know that it is not a “paid gig.” the most anyone has made is about $300, the least about $50.

How are (your) house concerts different from regular concerts?

these are “private” events for friends. no amplification. no recording of any kind. pot luck dinner. small living room.

How does in your opinion space (private versus public, or architecture) influence performance, music, or interaction at (house/other) concerts?

sharing food and having concert in living room is the best possible way to hear music


Did you ever play or see house shows elsewhere, and if yes, where, and how were they similar/different from the onces at your home?



I attended shows at Woody Woodman’s Finger palace in Berkeley, and at Phil Niblock’s loft in NY, in the 1970s. But i think if these places more as concert venues in which someone lived than as a house concert. Most recently I have been to some similar venues in Oakland.


What are the benefits of organizing (or performing/attending) house concerts? (any downsides?)

good karma.

no downside



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