Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to see Richard Buckner live. When I lived in San Diego I saw him about three or four times. However, this time was different; instead of a club or bar, this performance was in a fan’s living room, and I was able to experience this talented artist in an entirely new way.
I make no pretense about being a casual fan of Buckner’s. I enjoy listening to his music, and in the past I’ve always had a good time at his shows. But I know only one or two of his songs by name, and I don’t regularly track his comings and goings. That being said, I completely acknowledge his unique talent as a songwriter and composer. Buckner just writes songs. The structure is not in your face, and each song unfolds in a unpredictable, yet satisfying way.
A good friend of mine is an amazing fan of Buckner, and in January he attended a Buckner living room concert in Portland, Oregon. After the concert he emailed me about his experience:
One of the best nights of my life. Richard was at his BEST in a 20×20 room with nothing but people there to see him. No talking during songs, clinking glasses, bullshit etc. 2hrs long. 18 years after [my sister] played him to me, we’re able to see him together. In the most intimate setting.
After his endorsement and a lengthy conversation about the evening, I knew I had to see one of these living room concerts. Then about a month ago I saw a tweet from Buckner’s twitter account announcing a living room show in Brooklyn. I snatched up a ticket right away and waited for the show to happen.
My friend was right about the show. It was something extremely special. When I arrived at the “venue” (an apartment in Fort Greene), I was welcomed into the home of the host’s family and treated with great kindness and warmth. I was offered a beer and some pizza, and introduced to several other guests—quite the opposite of being patted down by a bouncer for weapons and then being shuffled coldly into a dark room with a bar. Before the concert began, rather than fighting my way to the bar or staking out a spot near the stage, I was able to chat with the other attendees. An unexpected treat was meeting Dave Schramm, who played lap steel on Buckner’s 1998 album, Since. It was wonderful to hear his story about how he met Buckner and came about to play on his album.
Right before Buckner began playing, everyone gathered around him. I took a seat on the living room floor right next to him. The setting was perfect. There was no need for anything but Richard and his guitar. Being in such a close and intimate setting allowed me to clearly recognize the subtle nuance embedded in his songs. There was no fourth wall or recording studio separating us. The performance was a raw and visceral experience. I could hear inflections in his melodies and lyrics in ways I never noticed before. His guitar playing supported his voice in such a natural way, and between songs he would banter with the audience. Overall, there was a sense of shared experience and equality among everyone there.
There is nothing negative to say about the concert, even the commute from my apartment in Flatbush was quick and convenient. The evening reminded me of the salon concerts I learned about in music history, but with no sense of pretension or elitism. For about a year now I had been hearing about this new trend of living room concerts, and for artists like Buckner, it’s the ideal setting. Between songs he mentioned how much better it was then playing at bars and clubs, and I couldn’t agree more.
For artists who thrive in an acoustic, unplugged medium, this kind of show is the way to go. The living room concert also allows for performers to personally connect with their fans, and for fans to connect with one another; effectively cutting out a middle-man who profits from a lack of connection within a community. There’s also very little overhead on the production costs for these shows, so a performance can be delivered to an audience at a relatively low cost to both the producers (most often the artists themselves) and the audience. What’s amazing is that without twitter and other internet-based delivery methods, this show would have been almost impossible to access. It’s also amazing how these digital technology-based tools are making it easier for us to have physical and personal connections with one another—something counter to the common story of the internet as a force of isolation and fragmentation.
Richard Buckner will be performing living room concerts on the East Coast throughout May. To stay up to date on his living room shows, visit his page on undertowtickets.com, visit richardbuckner.com, or follow him on twitter.
As a final note, I apologize for the lack of photographs. I had originally hoped to take a few pictures, but I was so caught up in the experience that it completely slipped my mind.