Most people— and there are valid reasons for this— only experience live music in a large crowd. If you want to hear a band, you have to go to a bar or performance space where the music is, in a word, loud. Drinks are overpriced, and wading through a blood clot of humanity is often not an enjoyable task.
Some good things happen at these places, though. Hearing hundreds or thousands of people all singing along to the same song can be an amazing experience. Concerts make people feel broadly connected and provide a platform to dance, shout, laugh or cry without judgement.
However, I prefer something smaller. For those who want something quieter and more intimate, I would suggest a living room show.
If you don’t know what I am talking about, a living room show is a mini-concert of sorts where only a few people have gathered in someone’s house. You eat food and meet new people in a much safer, intimate environment, which I would argue allows music to be far more expressive and moving.
I recently went to one of these at musician and Ole Miss law student Marshall McKellar’s house. I, of course, arrived fashionably late and walked into a room of calm lighting and quiet voices. Candles burned in a semicircle around the performance space, clearly dividing the room into an artist’s studio and a gathering place despite the non-confrontational nature of the boundary.
I shook hands and learned names: Kirk, Hayden, Izzy, Shawn. We ate a few hotdogs and had a beer or two before the live music started. In the meantime, a Spotify playlist furnished the ambiance with artists such as Jónsi and Bon Iver.
Marshall crossed the candles into the semicircle, and we all instinctively gave him our attention. He tuned his guitar while making a joke or two, fully aware that he was in control of the room. Then, he began to play.
I love to hear Marshall sing because his voice has a beautiful tone, and his songs are charged with emotion. He sang in a very personal manner that was more confession than performance, and he only paused in his set to briefly steal a sip of a beverage.
After him, Izzy Robinson, an Ole Miss law school graduate, took the stage — or the candle-lit arena, I suppose — and started singing in a folky manner, switching from her normal register to falsetto and back again. Her music had an entirely different effect, creating more smiles and lightening the mood.
Finally, Shawn Chambliss, his keyboard player and his drummer stood before us, forming the band The DLX. Shawn joked that their songs would not be as somber as Marshall and Izzy’s, and he was absolutely right. The mood quickly became upbeat and rhythmic to match the performance.
They did some original songs and a few covers, laughing all the while at mistakes they had made that none of us caught. Apparently, the three hadn’t actually played live together in front of people, but they had a great chemistry; we felt their love for music, and it spread to our tapping feet.
This night had a completely different purpose from a concert. It was not about money or fans or brand recognition. This night was about creativity and passion and raw emotion. The local music scene does not revolve solely around playing in bars and clubs; in fact, its most precious and worthwhile moments occur when friends gather to support an artist’s vulnerable expression.
Maybe that sounds like the single most boring night you could possibly imagine, but I encourage everyone to find a living room show or host one so you can see what the artistic community has to say away from all the baggage of large crowds or impersonal criticisms. Personally, nights like that make me feel truly alive; could the same be said for you?