Years ago, one of my gigglier girlfriends and I decided that the sexiest musical experience imaginable would be to hear Sting singing in your shower. Now that I'm older and tamer (and married), Shake Russell strumming in the backyard, fully clothed, is more my speed.
This is where Barney and Beverly Goodman come in, with their Texas Nights House Concerts series. Once a month, the Goodmans throw open the doors of their suburban, red brick Friendswood home to a notable acoustic musician or two and a gaggle of serious folk-music fans. If the weather's bad, they limit seating to 50 indoors; when it's fine, they can accommodate 100 or more on the outdoor deck.
When I joined them to see Shake Russell perform with Maine songstress Anni Clark, I felt that old shivery sense of musical intimacy that I remember from my club-hopping days, minus the familiar funk of crowd, cigarettes and spilled beer. We sat in lawn chairs on thick green grass, under a deepening blue dome of evening sky. Mesquite smoke from "Big Leg" Bob's barbecue pit wafted gently over the lawn. The fans, mostly 40-plus, appreciatively nodded their silvering heads in time to Shake's "Two Silver Hearts." Indoors, the Goodmans provided a potluck feast of covered dishes brought by guests, not to mention a blessedly clean bathroom. The whole evening was pleasant and peaceful and astonishingly wholesome.
Why would anyone invite a concert into their own living room? The Goodmans and their friends on the TNHC mailing list just plain love the music. I suspect Barney loves the stage, too, after watching him at the backyard microphone, welcoming artists and music lovers alike to his show, the brass buttons on his natty blue blazer glinting in the soft evening light. He and Beverly learned how to host house concerts on the Internet, and, make no mistake, theirs is a top-notch production with a great sound system, excellent lighting, tables for CD and T-shirt sales, and a video camera set up to record it all.
"House concerts are a big-time trend in folk music," says local musician Ron Crick of the Swing Kings. "There's a whole national circuit of these venues. Sure, the people who sponsor them are music groupies, but in a good way. They're not in it for the money; they just want to get next to the music. And it's great for the musicians -- they get all of the door proceeds and none of the usual hassles of club performances."
Where it gets tricky for musicians is balancing the demands of club gigs with the laid-back benefits of house concerts. Some professional club owners resent the intrusion of noncommercial amateurs onto the paying music scene and will jealously bar performers who've played local house concerts. It's a mistaken concern, say the Goodmans. When they're not hosting concerts themselves, they're busy rounding up music fans for shows at commercial venues such as Anderson Fair, the Mucky Duck, Cosmos Cafe and Galveston's Old Quarter. "We can really pack those places!" says Barney proudly.
To protect their artists from the big bad club owners, the Goodmans asked us not to list the names of the performers scheduled to play at their June 13 and June 26 concerts, but you can easily get this information by phone at (281)992-5817, via e-mail at email@example.com or, in a pinch, from the slightly out-of-date TNHC Web site at members.xoom.com/texasnights/. Shh, don't tell the club owners.
Texas Nights House Concerts, 703 Ferndale Court, Friendswood, (281)992-5817.