New neighbors: You just never know what you’re gonna get. From future best friends to potential mortal enemies and everything in between, welcoming newcomers to the neighborhood can be a scary prospect. For residents of a charming neighborhood in east Ventura, this year’s new kids on the block will be bringing something new to the ’hood, when once a month, their usually mild-mannered home will double for a full-blown concert venue, sort of.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a legitimate house concert series has finally come to the city of Ventura, and the hosts are veterans of the quite literal “in-house promotion” acoustic music scene.
Duncan House Concerts is the product of Scott and Rosemary Duncan, recent retirees and recent transplants from Los Angeles, where for more than 10 years, the couple held concerts in their home. When it came time to sell their house and say goodbye to their noisy neighbor, Los Angles International Airport, the couple reluctantly closed their popular venue which had hosted big names in the folk festival world like Vance Gilbert and Cliff Eberhardt. Duncan House Concerts was even featured on CNN.
After moving to Ventura earlier this year, the Duncans attended New York State’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, ground zero for house concert bookers and performers, and while discussing past concerts with several artists, Duncan was inspired to give it a go in his new home.
“I always knew it was a possibility we’d get it running again, so when we looked for a house in the area, we made sure to find a place that could hold 50 or more people in the living room,” explains Duncan. “I was definitely inspired by all the artists that wanted to play if we started it up again. We did a sneak preview show in October and then did the first official concert in December. They both went so well, we’re off and running for the new year.”
Off and running is no understatement. Duncan has already booked a full year’s lineup of entertainment that includes artists like Warren Zevon and Linda Ronstadt sideman Kenny Edwards; co-writer of the Pat Benatar mega hit “We Belong,” Dan Navarro; folkie cult legend Jack Hardy and many more prominent names for the Duncan living room stage, which, as unusual as it sounds, is actually the norm for house concerts.
For the uninitiated, legally speaking, house concerts are private parties. The Duncans set up folding chairs in their rather large living room, serve drinks and snacks and ask for a donation that goes directly to the artists. The Duncans make no profit. As for noise issues, the artists are from acoustic-based genres, so there’s either no sound system or a very small one, which leaves the neighbors happy, save for occasional parking issues. The audience is enthusiastic and attentive, and everyone quickly becomes friends in such close quarters. As the current financial crisis takes a brutal swing at the draw for touring artists, more and more acts that can fit in a living-room setting are lining up to play to the appreciative audiences and collect the 100 percent of the door that house concerts provide.
House concerts themselves are a phenomenon not unfamiliar to Ventura County. The Bodie House Concert series in Agoura Hills and Russ and Julie’s House Concerts in Oak Park are widely considered two of the best in country but both are often mistaken as being located in L.A., and in all fairness, the audience is made up heavily from residents of the L.A. area. The western part of the county has been long overdue for its own series, and the Duncans are ready to fill the void.
“We’re new to the area and we want to make as many friends and meet as many people as possible who are interested in this type of music. We’re looking forward to having some local artists perform, and we hope our house concerts can become a solid part of the acoustic music scene.”
And as for the neighbors?
“We made sure to introduce ourselves to all of them. Front, back, next door, down the street, we let them know what we’re up to and, most importantly, we always make sure to invite them to the shows.”
Duncan House Concerts in Ventura will hold its first show of the year featuring singer songwriter Randall Williams and English folk duo The Stryngs on Sunday, Jan. 11, at 6 p.m. To attend the show and for further information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.myspace.com/duncanhouseconcerts.