Quebec City, on a late summer night.
I turned the street corner rapidly, the sound of my heels reverberating against the tall brick buildings. ‘’I should really stop giving people a time, I
rarely never make it’’ I thought to myself. Nothing new. Although I am sure I have worse flaws.
I pulled open the heavy red door, climbed up the tiny yet so familiar flight of stairs and walked right in, pass the green and white doors. I have been in that apartment numerous times, have experienced various feelings, ate all kinds of delicious food, laughed, cried, danced, have been both sober and heavily drunk and everywhere in between. Tonight, as I get in, I am slightly nervous which is a feeling I don’t experience that often within that friendly space. It is because tonight is different. A house show is taking place in the red room.
I am a pretty intense person, the kind that sees something special in every gig she goes to. The vibration of a massive venue, the cool darkness of a basement pub tainted with the smell of liquor, the ceremonial beauty of a converted church, etc. The venue creates an experience, so do the people. The sweet comfort of friendly faces, the novelty of out of town concerts/festival, where no one knows your name… A house show in a friend’s flat? Pretty much the best.
So, I get inside fitted with my best smile. I came back from a 15 week journey in England only a week before, I have missed a lot of these people. I introduced myself to musicians, hiding my nervousness behind a cheerful handshake. That nervousness, it comes from admiration. From listening to the beautiful music I was going to hear live that night, thinking AGAIN how picking up an instrument and practice is of immense difficulty. From knowing how, inside of me, I would probably never truly make peace with the fact that I am not a talented musician. Admiration, indeed. With a dash of envy.
After a lot of chats and laughter, a taste of a great english style ale (Ok, not great, I miss England too much), everybody gathered in the red room for the first act, a collective of talented artists from the very neighborhood we were in, the St. Jean Baptiste Country Club. Beautiful tunes, funny tunes and one cleverly rude-to-our-prime-minister tune. They made me laugh and smile and sing along. I could tell that is what they are about. Not only are they musicians, they also host house shows (les shows de grenier) and launched their label this summer, La Palette. (I promise to share more in upcoming posts). As soon as their set was over, I knew I wanted more.
In between sets at a house show, you get to snoop around a little in the apartment, your eyes taking in all that new information. It can be a thought-provoking quote written on a chalkboard in the kitchen or a collection of books piled together on homemade bookshelves. This particular apartment has a million beautiful things to distract people but since I knew my surroundings, I took some time to play with the cat. House shows bonus: might be in presence of cats. And then we gathered again, this time for Michael C. Duguay, seated on a stool with a dark red electric guitar in his hand. No band, no frills, just him with his texts, his melodies. There was something about him that had drawn me in from the earlier handshake, an empowered sadness I would say. I could tell I was about to live something emotional so I kicked off my shoes and sat on the floor next to the chair of my good friend/host. With my head on her lap and her hand caressing my hair, I took it all in, the beautiful sorrow of Michael’s voice. His words brought to the surface the pain of personal experiences without it being unbearable, quite the opposite. It was a soothing connection, to see this beautiful person, performing with all his heart, admitting to his sadness and being able to shake it off for a instant. Despite the small crowd, I felt there was only him surrounded by warm colours and soft lights and me, seated on the hard-wood floor, contemplating.
Before the last act, two of the night’s artists shared short stories out of their respective books. These moments of intimate sharing are precious and so was hearing EONS perform their stunning, heart felt music. My eyes can easily well up, I have to be honest. Sitting there, all jammed in on a couch, between people I barely know, relishing the vast artistry of these high and low voices, I was touched.
There is something magic about house shows. It is the community around it, being part of something so honest, sitting down/standing up in a intimate space with like minded people who despite a certain nervousness, made the effort to join in, to come enjoy. That community feeling is meaningful, there is a brilliance in it. Acknowledging the access to such events is crucial and keeping it alive is what I strive for. Food for thoughts? I believe so. Until then, don’t hesitate to join in/put together a house show. It has a real humane feeling to it, plus you get live music. What’s not to love?