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Did you miss me?

For the first time since I started New South Essays in March 2011 I have hit a wall. Failing to post an essay three out of the last four weeks, I’ve succumbed to inertia, and it threatens my blogging endeavor.

Blogging with brooding intensity at sunrise
Blogging with brooding intensity at sunrise

In addition to my absence from the blogosphere, I also have to admit that the quality of recent posts is suffering. The greater percentage of posts have been “misses” rather than “hits.” Like all bloggers, I track my statistics compulsively, and unsurprisingly, my readership has waned at about the same time as the quality of my content began to decline. Changing my posting day after 18 months from Friday to Saturday probably didn’t help either.

A little more than two years into New South Essays, I am failing to fulfill the two basic requirements of blogging: quality content and consistent posting. The culprit? Time and energy.

The time I previously spent writing on Saturday mornings is now split between weekly planning for the Cub Scout den I lead and getting in a long run as I vainly attempt to defy aging and fool myself into thinking I can still someday qualify for the Boston Marathon. Something has to give, and lately it’s been the blog.

My energy level is still high, but it is focused in another direction. I started a new job at Georgia Tech back in the fall, and this new challenge has turned my creative energies toward learning a large and complex organization, managing a different staff and strategizing about a unique set of audiences and messages. It has been a fascinating and invigorating journey of discovery.

But when it comes to my blog, I am bereft of what I need in order to produce good content. I am a creature of habit, craving routine to channel my creativity. When my routine breaks down or shifts, it takes me a little time to come up with a new approach to compensate.

I hope you’ll stick with me as I find new footing and a new routine. I also ask that you contribute by letting me know what you are interested in, what you are seeing in the New South or what topics you would like  for me to address.

Remember, this isn’t just one-way communication. Enter the dialogue. You can e-mail me at lanceelliottwallace@gmail.com or just leave a comment below.

You’ve been great to stick with me so far, and I aim to make it worth the trouble.

The old/new way to listen to live music

There’s something humbling and heart-warming about being invited into someone’s home. Hospitality stirs a powerful response of gratitude.

Kate Campbell, photo by Suzannah Raffield.
Kate Campbell, photo by Suzannah Raffield.

Every time I sit down to a meal or stand around eating finger foods in someone’s home, I know they have gone to a tremendous effort and expense. I feel valued.

Now, add in the experience of live music, and the occasion moves up the rungs of memory a few notches.

Carla and I had the great pleasure of receiving the hospitality of our friends the Mackeys last Friday night. They treated us to a spread of food and the stirring strains of our favorite musician, Kate Campbell, in our first-ever house concert.

For the first hour or so we caught up with old friends, met new ones and generally enjoyed adult conversation without having our children in tow. For the next few hours, we sat in Brittany’s and Joe’s living room listening to Kate tell stories in word and song.

I was thrilled she sang “New South,” the unofficial anthem of this blog, in her opening set which also included her Southern lament “Look Away.” I beamed with pride when she elected to sing one of my requests in her second set, “Visions of Plenty.” She stuck mostly with the guitar, but at the end of her first set, she did give us one or two tunes on the piano.

Still, I couldn’t get over the mixture of awkwardness and excitement over having such a personal experience in such an intimate setting. I’ve seen Kate perform at church, at large-scale religious gatherings such as CBF’s General Assembly, in songwriting workshops, and even Eddie’s Attic, the Decatur, Ga., landmark venue that routinely hosts outstanding singer-songwriters. I’ve enjoyed her and her music in each setting, but I have to say that the house concert was the best.

I wouldn’t exactly call house concerts a new trend. Back in the 16th century it was called “chamber music.” Nobles would have musicians play in their homes for their friends. Maybe the contemporary trend is a revival of that practice. Curious, I went in search of information about this trend in live music and found several pieces online from CNN to the New York Times, both dated 2010. Three years is about average for me to experience a trend that the rest of the world begins to notice.

You don’t have to be a music promoter to recognize house concerts are a win-win for the performers as well as the patrons. House concerts provide a powerful experience of the arts and a livelihood for the musicians. The latter part of that equation is why home concerts are making a comeback. Constant touring is a rough way for a musician to make a living: playing in bars where the music is just a backdrop, paying out of pocket for travel expenses, being away from family and friends for weeks at a time. All of these factors and more make the home concert an appealing way to earn a living and share music.

CIYHlogoIn my research, I quickly found two sites dedicated to the proliferation of house concerts: Concerts in Your Home and Dinner and Song. The concept behind these sites is that they offer you the opportunity to buy tickets to home concerts in your area. dnsLogoSlightly riskier in terms of social awkwardness – paying to go to someone’s home you may not know to spend time in close proximity with complete strangers – than going to a show in a more impersonal venue, these sites make a compelling case for the house concert.

We were able to get Kate's latest release, "Live at the Library" which was recorded with Southern historian Wayne Flynt during Samford University's Homecoming in October 2008. This limited-pressing CD will be available May 15. I'll spare you the full review and say it's amazing.
We were able to get Kate’s latest release, “Live at the Library” which was recorded with Southern historian Wayne Flynt during Samford University’s Homecoming in October 2008. This limited-pressing CD will be available May 15. I’ll spare you the full review and say it’s amazing.

And that’s what made last Friday night so special: it was a gift. Brittany and Joe didn’t ask anything in return. Yes, we bought the one CD of Kate’s that we don’t already have, but otherwise, we didn’t have to contribute anything.

I’m sure your musical taste will dictate whether or not a house concert is for you. I can’t imagine experiencing Metallica or Guns ‘N Roses in a living room. But if singer-songwriters are your preferred genre, I highly recommend a house concert. It will be an experience you won’t soon forget.

Have you ever been to a house concert? Who performed? What was it like? Did you enjoy it? Leave a comment below and share your experience.