But a growing number of frustrated folk fans around the country are doing something about it. They’re hosting their own concerts – at home.
Bill Wagman is setting up metal folding chairs in his living room.
"If you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to put that there..."
In a few minutes, about 30 people will start arriving at his modest home in this quiet Davis neighborhood. He’s hosting a concert by Chuck Brodsky, a folk singer from North Carolina. Wagman’s living room is warmly lit with sand colored walls and hard wood floors. And there’s no clutter around. He says it doesn’t take long to clean the place up for a concert.
"I live here by myself with a couple of cats so they’re kind of neat, so it’s not too difficult."
Casually dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt, Wagman takes a break from setting up to reminisce about when his passion for music started.
"I guess the classic story is that when I was in high school I wanted to learn how to play the guitar because I thought girls would like me but…(laughs). So I learned how to play the guitar and of course that didn’t happen."
He may not have gone on many dates, but Wagman says he saw a lot of great concerts growing up in the Bay Area.
"Some of the old blues guys: John Hurt, Lightnin’ Hopkins which was a real treat."
Today, Wagman works as a database administrator for U-C Davis. He also hosts a folk music show on the campus radio station. Wagman wanted to bring some of the artists he played on the radio to town. So Wagman turned his house into a venue. In the 12-years since his first living room concert, Wagman has presented everything from Irish celtic to bluegrass. And he isn’t alone. There’s an expanding circuit of house concert sites around the country. (telephone rings)
As Wagman answers calls from people asking for directions to his house, the first audience members arrive.
"Come in…hello there….hi I’m Bill"
Tonight the audience is a little larger than Wagman had anticipated.
"Let me get some more chairs..."
After everyone is seated, it’s time for the performance. Wagman makes the introduction. "
I want to thank everybody for coming out tonight. Please welcome Chuck Brodsky…."
"I love playing house concerts."
Folk artist Chuck Brodsky says he’s performed at homes in 20 different states.
"I love the intimacy of it. I love hanging around and meeting people and hearing their stories or hearing what they might have to say about my music. And you don’t get as much of that opportunity at a venue."
As Brodsky strums away on his next tune, he stands just 2-feet away from the front row of spectators.
"Sometime that can be a little bit awkward for audience members who’ve never been to a house concert before. They don’t know whether it’s okay to clap out loud or go wild."
During intermission, Brodsky mingles with the audience, most of whom are familiar with his music.
One of the audience members, Jerry Hastings, usually goes to concerts at The Palm’s in Winters but he says house concerts have a very different vibe.
"Kind of like a small party atmosphere. As you can see everybody’s kind of talking and visiting and then Chuck plays for a while and then a little bit of an intermission and you meet a few new people and it’s just kind of a nice relaxed evening out."
A big audience inside means a lot of cars outside. But Wagman says his neighbors are tolerant of the extra traffic.
"I’ve only really gotten one complaint from the city that was several years ago. I convinced the city that this is not a business, it’s a hobby of mine and it’s giving musicians a place to play. It’s an art."
Wagman averages about one concert a month. He charges $12 for admission with all the proceeds going to the artist. When asked why he opens his home to the public for these events, Wagman is quick to answer – the music. But he admits there’s another reason.
"I suppose there’s a bit of an altruistic point of view too, there are a number of people who come to the concerts who tell me that they really appreciate the fact that I’m doing the concerts and I think there are a lot of people who like this kind of music who otherwise wouldn’t be able to easily hear it or find it in the area. So yeah, it’s an interaction on a different kind of level I think."
Bill Wagman will take a short break from hosting concerts later this summer to attend a folk music festival in Scotland. And you can bet Wagman will be scouting for more musicians to invite into his living room.