Email interview with Max Greenhalgh from Tan Sister Radio (http://www.myspace.com/tansisterradio, http://tansisterradio.blogspot.com/), an indie rock group from Encinitas, California, after their show on November 2, 2011, at the house on Douglass street in Davis. They were on their “Northwest house show tour” (see the list of all houses on the tour here: http://www.facebook.com/events/155627651196460/).
How did you decide to do an exclusive house show tour?
They are just simply the funnest and most effective shows for us to play by far. We’ve done around 5 tours/jaunts in our existence as a band and we started with the mindset of trying to get booked at any kind of record shop, all ages venue, coffee shop, bar etc, but we slowly started to realize that these traditional types of venues didn’t do much for an underground touring band. We did a tour last fall I believe and we had a house show in Santa Cruz and we kind just asked “why don’t we do this for every show?”. Plus all of our friends at college were moving out the dorms and getting houses so it made it that much easier for us.
Where did you first heard about house concerts, and how important part of your life are they?
Well down here in San Diego there is absolutely no house show scene so after booking a first couple tours I started to notice all these cool shows going on up the coast. I think it started with TINARL (This Is Not A Record Label), a house show/underground network that I ran in. They are collectively are favorite types of shows definetly.
What’s TINARL (can you describe it a bit?)
TINARL is a community of DIY house shows, mostly in the punk, hardcore, metal or experimental range. They don’t do as much as they used to, but they definitely helped cultivate a thriving music scene in Santa Cruz.
Why do you think house shows are important?
They provide an actual community based around good music! I met so many new and wonderful people on tour that truly appreciate good music. The only other significant glimpse of a music scene on a local basis I’ve seen comes from strictly punk, hardcore, or metal genres. Which is just not what we do so house shows are our outlet.
Why do people organize them?
Some people really appreciate the music and want to support it while others just want to host a party (ahem Isla Vista).
What would you say is a difference between house concerts and concerts in regular venues?
Well house shows are often donation based while regular venues there’s usually cover or presale usually found somewhere out of the price range of your average college student. All ages venues are often filled with a stagnant awkward crowd while bars are usually filled with drunks focused more on the football game with the exception of an occasional whistle and/or “Freebird” request. House shows usually don’t pay as well unless you are very convincing with your donation jar.
How does space (either public versus domestic, or architecture) influence the performance, the music, and interaction?
I’ve always preferred playing on ground level with the audience than on a stage. A stage to me kind of resembles that glorified rockstar image which just doesn’t exist in the progressing music industry. I’d rather be one with the audience so it’s easier to interact and communicate your music to them. We’ve played in some random places that have evoked a unique performance out of us such as the basement of an unorthodox (pretty much all religions possible) church and this crazy bar in Downey (sketchy part of LA) called the Anarchist Library where Andrew had to play next to a blowup sex doll.
How were these two places different than usually (architecturally), and how did they influenced the performance and interaction?
Hmm the church show took place in their basement, which used to be a factory for dolls. The space was odd, but it provoked a more intimate performance from us. The Anarchist Library had no stage\, but a really small drum riser of sorts. When we played their we had no real inspiration other than fear so maybe we played a little faster so we could leave sooner haha!
Is there a significant San Diego house concert scene? Can you describe it? How is it different from other scenes that you encountered on your tour?
There is no house show scene whatsoever here other than a couple offhand house parties that are usually rolled after a little while. There’s a couple cool underground venues like the Che Café, Park Gallery, and Habitat House, but that’s pretty much it.
Why do you think there is no house show scene in San Diego?
I think this is because San Diego (especially here in North County) is fairly conservative when it comes to the arts as opposed to cities up north. Most house parties that do happen here are occupied by people that don’t appreciate live music (preferably DJs and what not). Also noise complaints are much more popular. The reason we started touring was because we wanted to be apart of musical communities that showed more appreciation.
How did you organize the tour? Did you find any help (promoters, manager, booking agents)? How did you find houses? Can you describe the procedure of organizing a tour? Would you say there is a “fixed” circuit of houses for touring bands that they can contact them for their tours?
I wish wish wish we could work a booking agent who does similar house-show style shows, booking tours is a fulltime job definitely. The best luck we’ve had has come from networking with people since we’ve played mostly friends houses or shows setup by friends. There is a solid network of houses you can reach out to, but they’re not in abundance and you can’t always schedule perfectly with them.
Would you point out to some of the more unique or interesting houses or house show scenes that you played at (on your tour or otherwise)?
Well I guess I’ll just highlight on some of our favorite cities here. Santa Cruz is always fun for us, we had a really interesting show this tour at this hippie trailer park on the UCSC campus. Davis has always been a nice lady to us. Eugene is a great town to play in and the kids there are always the nicest people you’ll ever meet. The audience in Seattle is passive, but they appreciate good music a lot more than in most cities. We had a show in San Luis Obispo that was insanely energetic and we met some of the wackiest characters that night. And last but not least Santa Barbara is always the craziest party, however it is strictly that since kids there just wanna rage and aren’t too focused on the music.
Did you notice there any differences in terms of demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, class, education …)? (Between various house concert scenes, or between house concert scenes and other venues; at your concerts or in general)?
Well we’ve played mostly for the college student demographic which has consistently been the same at most house shows. Maybe if we setup house shows outside of a college town circuit.
(Race?) We’ll about as diverse as the college town we played at. In majority, Caucasians and Hispanics further. However, it’s tough to say because we played in a lot of cultural melting pots like SF.
What are some of your best (or worst, or interesting) experiences from a tour or playing house shows?
Aw so many. Let’s see some brief highlights:
I met a gothic girl with black lipstick in SLO who, for some odd reason, was set on using pickle juice as a chaser for her vodka.
At our show in Isla Vista this random girl came out of nowhere and kissed me on stage out of the blue! Which was flattering, but I swear IV girls are on another level…
A 5 dollar handle of gin epitomized Chico for us.
For some reason people kept giving us drugs! I became an unintentional shroom collector of the Seattle and Santa Cruz species.
Our roadie/contributor/friend Ben Landis was our constant source of entertainment and he slept most nights naked without a sleeping bag (no joke!).
There’s hundreds of other stories, but it’s that “you shoulda been there” kind of story in order to understand
You meet so many amazing people on tour!