Love Thy Neighbor: The Trouble With Running a House Venue

For the past few years, I’ve been running a house show out of my living room.

It happened quite on accident. One day, Pat Quigley came to me and asked if I could host some acoustic artists because his venue was booked up. I agreed. It went well. A few months later, the same situation came up with some punk bands.

I was a bit hesitant. One of my neighbors had complained about band practice, so I felt like he would probably have some reservations about loud punk bands playing right next door to him. So I knocked on his door and asked. He explained that he just had to wake up early for work on weekdays, but said, and I quote, “on weekends, you guys can do whatever you want. Have a blast.”

I cleared it with my neighbor on the other side. She shrugged, happy to stay out of our way if we stayed out of hers. When I asked if she cared about people parking in front of her house, she shrugged again. “It’s a free street.”

I booked the show. It went well. I booked more. And through the years, I’ve had some pretty wild shows through. I’ve hosted punk bands, metal bands, synthnoise bands, and one free jazz duo…all with no complaints.

A couple years ago, the neighbor who had given the weekend all-clear moved. I was nervous about who might move in. It ended up being a guy just a few years older than me. I asked him if he’d care if I threw the occasional house show. He said absolutely not.

And so House FitzGerald continued.

Show after show, band after band, and no complaints from the neighbors. At a point, I just figured that I had lucked out. I hit the neighbor jackpot. The new neighbor’s girlfriend moved in. I asked again. They assured me it was fine. They had a baby. I asked again. They said the baby caused enough noise, so it was only fair that we got to make some noise of our own.

Comrades and Servants and analecta and even my own quite loud band have played through my living room, all without a single complaint.

Until this weekend.

Gaffer Project was passing through town, and had asked Pat for a show. Pat’s venue was already booked, so as usually happens, they came to me. I put a show together.

A local emotional hardcore band opened. I stepped outside to check how loud the sound was to the neighbors and remarked that I was impressed at how well the sound was insulated. While I was out there, my neighbor who had previously shrugged off my question of street parking drove up to her house, shook her head and peeled out down the street. She pulled a U-turn and parked in front of Frank’s house (for the record, Frank has expressed issue with people parking in front of his street).

I half expected her to say something to me as she walked into her house, visibly upset, but she didn’t. I brushed it off. If she wasn’t going to tell me that she had an issue with people parking in front of her house, I wasn’t going to worry about it.

The show continued on. The Krelboynes went next, playing some chill, jangly indie rock. I didn’t expect any issues at all.

Then Gaffer Project set up. And for those of you that don’t know Gaffer, they’re a drum and bass power-duo. Jordan double amps his bass and screams over it. I had to tear myself away a few times to go outside to do neighbor duty. If any band would get the cops called on us, it would be this one. Luckily, there were no complaints. The house next door was completely dark—I assumed that we lucked out, and they were gone for the night.

SPACESHIPS got started around ten, and I told the guys I wanted to be done by 10:30 so we didn’t have to worry about the noise ordinance. Ten minutes into the set, between songs, someone interrupted us to let me know that the neighbor next door came over to ask us to turn down—and he was not happy about it.

My heart sank. I decided to end the set there and apologized to everybody. Bands loaded out, people bought merch, and everyone went home.

But I was uneasy.

After all these years without issue, I had assumed that it would keep not being an issue. But there was a nag at the back of my mind saying that the day would come where I would have to shut it down.

Because at the end of the day, a house venue rises and falls on the goodwill of the neighbors.

And in the early days, I pressed into that hard. I gave them ample warning before every show. I would clear louder shows with them before I confirmed with the bands. I would leave notes on their door to remind them. They were always chill, always supportive, and always kind.

But recently, I’ve been taking that goodwill for granted. Since they always seemed to be fine with shows happening, I began to assume that goodwill was unconditional. I stopped going out of my way to give them a heads up. I might mention something to them a day before if we passed eachother, but maybe not even that. I figured that I was only doing loud shows on the weekend, and even then I was trying to get done by 10:30, so why would they have a problem with it?

And I realize now what a bad spot I’ve put myself in. My neighbors might not seem to care about house shows when I let them know, but I’m pretty sure they appreciate the warning. They might not tell me that they care about people parking in front of my house, but I can certainly put two and two together and make sure that they always have a space in front of their house.

After all, they shouldn’t have to bend their lives to accommodate my house venue. I should be bending to accommodate them.

So yesterday, I sent my neighbor a message apologizing. I said I could stop booking loud shows in the future. He said it’s fine, but to just be mindful of how long they go on.

House FitzGerald lives to see another day. I just probably won’t be booking many more hardcore bands.