Imagine seeing a well-known musician like Neil Osborne of 54-40, John Mann of Spirit of the West, or Jesse Roper of The Roper Show in the comfort of someone’s living room. House concerts have been gaining popularity and media attention as an alternative to playing in theatres, clubs, and bars. Victoria House Concert B (VHCB), run by Andrew Briggs, is one of Victoria’s contributions to this revival.
VHCB began in 2007 after Briggs saw Tom Hooper of the Grapes of Wrath perform at a local bar. An invitation by Briggs a few weeks later asking Hooper to come perform at his house was accepted. From there, it grew from just four concerts in 2007 to exactly 50 in 2013.
“My mission is my dedication to supporting the live music industry and passing it on to music lovers through VHCB,” says Briggs. “Why leave it up to the venues and artists? Why not make it happen yourself?”
VHCB gives artists 100 per cent of admission, and fans get an intimate performance rarely found somewhere else. Posters, t-shirts, old set lists, and CDs, all signed by VHCB alumni adorn Briggs’ living room walls, along with a festive sprinkling of white lights. So many concerts occur that the chairs and stools are permanently set up.
VHCB brings the live music experience back to a much simpler time when small communities enjoyed intimate performances in houses, barns, and backyards, and itinerant musicians literally sang for their supper.
Moritz Behm, a well-known violinist in Victoria’s live music scene, sensed the importance of music to the people he played for at his first VHCB concert. Behm notes, “The thing that stood out to me was the depth and subtlety musically that was there when I played there the first time. You knew people were touched personally.”
Singer Felicia Harding has played numerous house concerts at VHCB as part of Isobel Trigger, and senses a genuine movement towards community among not just musicians but music fans as well.
“In this global village, we are very connected with each other (communicating over large distances and keeping in touch) but we are also very disconnected and shy away from strangers on a daily basis in person,” says Harding, “House concerts bring things back to the basics and allow for a closeness that we all crave.”
Closeness is what you get at VHCB. A full house sees up to 60 people, and a packed living room, without much room to move, often requiring the “whiskey window”—an opening next to the performer that becomes the preferred mode of alcohol delivery when the conventional way is too difficult.
As a regular front row attendee at VHCB since 2009, I have bantered with performers, taken pictures, filmed videos, been an informal roadie, and heard the stories behind many Canadian classics (the one about Spirit of the West’s “Venice is Sinking” is my personal favourite). With 35 concerts so far in 2014, VHCB is well-placed to keep the tradition alive for fans and artists alike.