I’d never heard the term “house concert” before we moved to the desert. I’m sure they were going on in the big city- we just hadn’t crossed paths with them yet. Here in the hi-desert, pretty much as soon as we moved here, house concert invites came and went… we met musician friends who road-tripped across the country subsidizing their travels doing house concerts along the way… and somehow we just (finally) went to our very first house concert this last weekend.
Above: Us with Mark and Francene, AKA phog masheeen.
Many previous house concert invites were featuring folks we dug, but at people’s houses we were unfamiliar with (or vice-versa), so it felt strange to go. This house concert was featuring people we dug at a couple’s house we dug. Lots of diggin’ going on… good stuff.
We wanted to make sure to be on time- that was unusual for us… but we didn’t want to miss the potato-party that started off the whole event. We spotted the house high up in the boulders in Joshua Tree and at first mistakenly turned up a utility road to a water tower. We didn’t realize it until we came up on the locked chain-link fence, and then had to back down the same crazy-angled heavily rutted road we had just come up.
We found the right road and maneuvered our car carefully up the precarious steep dirt/sand driveway that we’d been warned about, (“our driveway will destroy your car,” the hostess had said half-jokingly) found a place to park, and realized that we were, indeed, still on time. We marveled. Then we made our way inside, marveled again, (this time at how amazing the house was,) grabbed a beer, prepped a baked potato, and met all the members of the two bands (one local and one from Colorado.) The host and hostess were playing too- in fact they were going to start things off and who we were actually most excited to see.
We got the “nickel tour” of the rest of the house- the ceiling must have been at least 20 ft high with an open master bedroom loft looking down over the music zone they’d set up… a comfortably eclectic vibe to the whole place… lots of books.
More people and more potatoes!
Then it was time for phog masheeen to begin playing their “folk-tronic” set with found objects- host Mark Soden Jr. on an electrified motorcycle exhaust expansion chamber from a Yamaha YZ 250- and hostess Francene on pots and bundt pans and an old movie theater reflector from a movie projector, just to name a few of the objects…
Above: phog masheeen in action.
Mark read the history of the bundt pan as well as the history of the expansion chamber- as sounds such as we’ve never heard before emanated from between the two of them… overlapping each other and rising into amazing layered textures of brilliant sound. It was about a 20 minute set that could have gone on twice as long at the very least. Wow. Just wow.
Above: phog masheeen, view from above.
Then a little break. We stepped outside to enjoy the view and the stars and watch the strings of car lights cruising up and down Park Blvd… met interesting new people – a couple who just moved to Joshua Tree from Switzerland 3 months ago… a guy who used to write for the O.C. Weekly (or was it the L.A. Weekly?) and now just wants to write his own stuff out here in the desert… and then it was time for the Wild Hares from Colorado.
Above: Wild Hares with Mark “phog masheeen” Soden on bass.
We’d gone on Bandcamp the night before to check them out- we’d listened to their latest cd- Dose- several times to familiarize ourselves with their music. I must say the cd was great but they were SO excellent live- front man Tracy Santa and drummer Michael Salkind (with Mark Soden on bass…) rocked the house! The energy and between-song banter and spontaneous songs thrown in were so great… I guess if I had to pick a favorite song off the album I’d say it’d be “Please Don’t Say We’re Through.”
Above: Wild Hares with Lisa Mednick Powell on accordion.
Then… hi-desert local Lisa Mednick Powell playing her new album “Blue Book” in it’s entirety with her partner Kip on stand-up bass. Her voice is as sweet and haunted as the likes of Gillian Welsh or Emmylou Harris- mesmerizingly beautiful… we just felt so astounded at the good fortune of finding ourselves part of this evening.
Above: Lisa Mednick Powell with Kip on bass and Mark Soden on trumpet.
We relished in the afterglow… talking to a couple of new friends who’d showed up that we’d met last weekend at the JT Saloon… and finally decided to make trek back home to our cabin. We were sent on our way with a bag of leftover potato-party potatoes from Francene and the lingering good vibes of an extraordinary (first) hi-desert house concert experience …