HOUSE CONCERTS YORK "one of the top 10 venues for up and coming acts" BBC6 Music

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Ben Arthur & Louise Cairns - 31st August 2007

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Review: BBC: North Yorkshire:

House music

It may conjure images of yellow smiley faces and flashbacks to dodgy electronic music, but this is something altogether more serene. BBC Radio York's Matt Seymour picked up his glow stick and went to investigate. Anyone who's followed the career of Willy Mason will have seen 'house concerts' in his touring itinerary. It's something Tony Fothergill noticed - intrigued, he wanted to find out more.

"I thought a house gig was about throwing enough money at a famous artist, to convince them to play anywhere. So you could get the equivalent of Marilyn Monroe popping out of a birthday cake in your front room. I quickly realized it's the other side of the coin. It's not the money that's driving this, it's artists wanting to get an attentive audience who are actually going to listen to their music."

Tony hosts house concerts at his home near York on a Friday evening. They haven't been running for very long, but already it's taken off and most artists are playing to, quite literally, a full house.

It's a pretty good deal for the travelling musician. They get food and a bed for the night, members of the audience give a donation to pay for costs, and they may get to sell a few CDs as well.

On the night I was there, we heard from Ben Arthur and Louise Cairns. Whereas Louise is from Scotland, Ben had just flown in from New York, so I asked Tony how that worked out financially. "He hasn't flown in just to be here. He's doing a tour, and playing about 80 miles away tomorrow. This is a stop over for him. There's no way we'd get someone flying over specially. But we do get great people you wouldn't normally see in such an intimate venue." So what's it like for the artist to play in a living room (admittedly quite a large one) full of people? Ben Arthur found it unnervingly quiet.

"Out on the road you're used to the bar thing. You do sometimes play folk clubs and they're pretty quiet, but this was a sort of preternatural quiet. Like a fart in a elevator or something. Terrifying in a way because if you make a mistake everyone's going to notice it.

"I have done house concerts before, and I want to do more of them. Most of us don't expect to make any money - it's art. You don't get potters saying 'I'm gonna make a million bucks'. "As an artist you want to communicate what you're doing. So a chance like this is just fantastic."

We could see these artists as the modern day bards, travelling from town to town, sharing stories and songs with those who gather to listen... or perhaps not. There's certainly something appealing about taking the business out of music. As a music lover, the venue of someone's comfortable home is hard to beat - you don't find you're stuck to the seat when you try to stand up.