House concerts an alternative to commercial shows

SF Chronicle Datebook
by Michael Dougan

Full story at

“The thing about a house concert is that it’s communal,” said popular songwriter, record producer and music teacher Caren Armstrong, 54, of Oakland. “Everybody brings something to make it happen.”

Armstrong’s concert series – actually staged in the basement of Left Coast Cyclery near the Claremont Hotel – is called Celebrating Songwriters. Each show ($10 at the door) features Armstrong’s own potent stylings along with two invited singer-songwriters. After brief solo performances, they appear “in the round, Nashville-style,” she said. “On a good night, there can be something pretty magical going on up there.”

For audience members, the intimacy of house concerts is a major draw.

“When you’re breathing the same air as the entertainer, you feel special,” Patrick said. “That’s why people like to sit on the front row, even though it’s not the best seat.”