Live Music: Parlour Gigs
About a decade ago, I went to a big beach bar in Florida, USA, to see a popular indie band, but arrived early enough to hear the opening act – an American troubadour named Elvis Perkins (pictured). He began his set with a melancholy epic and the venue fell silent from the very first strum. I was transfixed.
In January, I saw him play again, this time on the back deck of my little cottage in rural Victoria, performing for my family and friends. Perkins came alone, with only his acoustic guitar and harmonicas, to perform what’s called a Parlour gig. Parlour is an Australian web-based company that lists various artists (such as Dave Graney, Ed Kuepper and Ella Hooper, among many) who want to play intimate shows. After signing up, our home was chosen.
You need to sell tickets to the gig, which we did. You need to keep performers fed and watered, so we hosted a barbecue. You need to create a “green room” – ours was a lounge in which my son sat copying Perkins as he did his vocal warm-ups. You need to provide a “stage”, which can be a living room, kitchen nook, or in our case, a couch on the back verandah.
Perkins played for almost two hours, offering wry banter between songs and pausing to marvel at the corellas and cockies. He asked for requests, then dutifully played Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens and Woody Guthrie. He hung back to socialise, too. When the sun finally set, we booked him a seat on the train to Melbourne and walked him to the station.
We talked about writing, Donald Trump, and sleepy little country towns. And the shared experience of live music, from the heart, in a home away from home.