House concerts are the next great movement in the music evolution, happening more and more all across the globe as live music venues increasingly struggle to survive.
Maybe for a lack of dedicated venues, house concerts are where it’s at in Northland. This is where I came across Rocks n Flowers at their own music venue – and home – called Sunset Lounge at Ocean Purring Views, Tutukaka. With ambient sounds of the sea, tuis defending their batch of flax and 360-degree views across Poor Knights Islands and surrounding bays, the Sunset Lounge literally kicks off at sunset, creating a triangle of music, people and nature.
French singer, bass player, songwriter of original music, Brigitte Legendre, and her Kiwi partner, drummer Grant Tromp, regularly open their clifftop home for soirée evenings (house concerts), bringing local communities together. For the last year, they’ve been trying to create one true evening of sheer enjoyable fun for both musicians and listeners.
“One of the pluses to hosting gigs in your own home is not having to carry your gear to the venue,” laughs Brigitte about the clear convenience of performing right in their living room.
The conception of Rocks n Flowers goes back to when Brigitte met Katherine Marks and Nicola Reece, and the three worked on vocal harmonies together. Richard Hawkins and Grant Tromp developed bass, guitar and drum grooves around it, with the common goal to reach a ‘live trance’ to gel the performers. As a result, their songs are melodic and complex, with instruments getting mixed and matched up. The easy-going set up allows for freedom of expression and experimentation, which Richard appreciates.
“Using my effects to create a whole different sound that I’ve never used before, crafting a new sound if you like. It’s also about blending a new sound with other people and the freedom to develop and explore in a positive and connecting way.”
Richard’s rhythm and lead guitar feel set a platform of classy riffs for others in the band to work with. His laid back style complements the live set, adding a blues, funk sunshine feel.
House venue owner, promoter, organiser, connector of people and a passionate drummer, Grant’s drive for more keeps the band on its game, surprising the band with new heights and challenges. It’s a three-way quest for excellence, fun and an audience, according to Grant.
“’Give me one good year,’ was the proposal we put to the band, and ‘Let’s see where we can get by having consistent rehearsals once a week every week.’ We followed that up with monthly house concerts to road test, or rather ‘house test’, our material.”
New songs come out of rehearsal, develop at sound check or just happen when the inspiration strikes any member of the band. Being such a level playing field it doesn’t take much to coerce the Rocks’n’Flowers band to take it up. Their approach to new material is an open one – if you created it and you’re in the band it gets time.
Grant says what he loves about their house concerts and other gigs in the neighbourhood is the instant critique, an opportunity to learn in real time what listeners like and don’t like. Done well and taken seriously, house concerts can help give musicians – particularly in rural settings – gain a good all round foundation, fine-tune their live set and performances, earn a few dollars and be satisfied without going far from home.
Pop up concert venues can be anywhere, without the worry of noise complaints, and with an endless supply of homes as potential venues, bands are using them to create a new network of music entertainment ‘out in the sticks’.
Now more than a dozen house concerts in, Rocks n Flowers will soon be recording their first album and shooting some music videos. They’ll continue to share sitting room stages with other acts, maybe with a side of a few local festival gigs, the Tutakaka winery circle, and inviting private party bookings.