Students can’t get enough of house concerts, and it’s because of COVID fatigue



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Hours before Sami Miller hosted her first concert of the year, she found herself calling everyone she knew, asking if they could host the event at their home. That morning, a person who lived in the house where Miller had planned to host the concert tested positive for COVID-19.

“It was really just a critical moment. I reached out to everyone I could think of just to see if we could make a difference, ”said Miller, a junior in the Bandier program at Syracuse University. “I was terrified of having to cancel the show.”

Miller is also the curator of the Syracuse section of Sofar Sounds, a national society that hosts musical events in small places such as homes, cafes and breweries in cities across the country. Eventually, Miller chose the backyard of a house in the Westcott neighborhood of Syracuse. Michaela Martin, who lives in the house, remembers breaking into her roommates’ rooms to tell them they only had four hours to clean up and settle in for the show.

“I was running around this house like a chicken with my head cut off. I was sprinting, cleaning. I spent about 30 minutes trying to untangle a fairy light. said Martin, majoring in biology. “But when it all finally fell into place, I couldn’t help but smile. I really loved it.


Martin’s House, named the Backlot after Miller’s performance, and Sofar Sounds are part of the house concert scene that has grown rapidly across college. Students who run concert halls said home concerts exploded after shows and events were canceled due to the pandemic. But the shows themselves have also become a safer and more welcoming space for hosts and audiences, they said.

Josh Feldman, a senior entrepreneurship student, runs the Summit, another concert organization that helps different house venues host their own shows. The elder said he took inspiration from the organization after attending concerts at some of the house’s oldest venues such as The Ark, The Underground and The Deli.

While these shows were quite popular before the pandemic, Feldman said house concerts are more popular this year than he’s ever seen. The Summit hosted its first concert on September 10 and plans to host another this Friday.

“There were probably almost 20 shows, and it’s still early October,” Feldman said. “If there isn’t a house show on a weekend, it’s strange.”

The increase in house concerts came after so much live music was canceled due to the pandemic, Feldman said. Concert hosts often book performers by word of mouth, Miller said, or they can contact them directly. Several students have already applied through Sofar Sound’s Instagram page, and Miller can browse them and see who would be good to play, she said.

“Artists throughout their forties had so much time to hone their craft that every artist in the game currently wants to perform live,” Feldman said. “Throughout their forties, they were making this set live for some time, and it’s finally the highlight of it all.”

But concert hosts had a similar feeling, and many have said they anticipate the return of live music – and house performances – throughout the pandemic.

Last spring, Kenneth Barrist, a junior studying television, radio, and film, found a TikTok that explained how to create a wall of grass. The wall ultimately served as the inspiration for The Garden, a concert hall in the basement of his home. Barrist and his roommates spent the rest of the semester planning The Garden, which they say helped them through the pandemic.

Students dancing at a house show

House concert hosts strive to make house shows safer and more welcoming to performers and members of the public.
Maddi Jane Brown | Staff photographer

Barrist and two of his roommates, Lauren Brennan and Jen Jordan, both of whom are music industry students, used a grass rug, rugs and flowers to create a place that caters more to the acoustic music which they say is quieter than some of the concerts. that happened before the pandemic. They also plan to host open mic parties and comedy nights in addition to other live shows, Brennan said.

On their first show of the semester, Barrist and Brennan had to turn down around 100 people because their basement had reached capacity. Even though it was difficult to ask people to leave, they didn’t want to create an overly crowded space where people couldn’t enjoy the actual music.

“We are definitely creating a calmer atmosphere. We’re not here to rage, party all the time, ”said Jordan, a young music industry major. “We put it at a point where the people inside feel comfortable and they’re not side by side with each other. “

Small shows may be a safer alternative to big festivals and shows with thousands of people, especially while coronavirus cases are still high, Barrist said.

Artists throughout their forties had so much time to hone their craft that every artist in the game currently wants to perform live.

Josh Feldman, owner of the Summit

People attending concerts at the Garden must be vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter. Members of the public don’t see the coronavirus requirements as a drawback, Brennan said, but rather, many of them appreciate the venues ensuring the show is as safe as possible.

Small concerts also create a more welcoming community where everyone in the audience is there to enjoy the music, Miller said. Sofar Sounds usually does not announce who is performing at shows, which creates an audience there to support the music, although they may not necessarily know the artist.

“It’s simple and it’s really about the music. People can just sit there and rock and really enjoy it, ”Martin said. “Here you can come, bring a blanket, bring a lawn chair, bring a bag of popcorn and listen to music. “

The house concert scene has become less competitive this year, which helps make shows quieter and safer, Feldman said. Many concert halls, including The Garden and the homes where the Summit hosts performances, share a virtual calendar that includes dates for when and where each concert takes place.

Picture Us Tiny student group performs at house show

Student group Picture Us Tiny is performing at the Summit earlier this semester. The students organize the concerts themselves, sometimes completely independently or through a larger national system such as Sofar Sounds.
Maddi Jane Brown | Staff photographer

The schedule also helped build a community among those organizing the concerts, Feldman said. A few weeks ago, he realized that The Garden was planning to host a concert on October 8, the same day as the next Summit show.

Rather than cancel one of the shows, Jordan and Feldman decided to hold the concerts at different times on the same evening. .

“Basically Jen (Jordan) is helping us because she’s going to have a show and after her show she’s going to tell everyone to go to our show,” Feldman said.

But concert hosts said the wave of house shows was mostly fulfilling.

Putting on shows is an opportunity to help new artists thrive and bring music to people who haven’t had it for more than a year, Miller said. The concerts bring joy to everyone involved, she said, which makes it such an amazing experience.

“I’m really happy that we took this chance with this four hour concert,” said Martin. “Because at the end of the day, it’s going to be one of my favorite college memories.”

Contact Maggie: [email protected] | @maggie_hickss


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