Homegrown house concerts bring intimacy back to Victoria music scene

Guitar in hand, Shaun Verreault, frontman for popular Canadian band, Wide Mouth Mason, sits on a stool in Andy Briggs’ living room

Shaun Verreault

With guitar in hand, Shaun Verreault, frontman for popular Canadian band, Wide Mouth Mason, sits on a stool in Andy Briggs’ living room and scans the eager faces before him.

It’s Saturday night and about 40 music lovers have gathered for another concert in Briggs’ Fernwood home.

By day he is a financial controller, but by night he has been bringing well-known solo artists, bands and their fans together since 2007, as part of his Victoria House Concert B.

“I get my (music) fix from these house concerts,” Briggs says.

House concerts, though still largely underground and advertised through word of mouth, are gaining in popularity in Canada. Some artists even travel from home to home on house-concert circuits, says Verreault, who performed his first in Briggs’ home last August.

“What this guy has done is unbelievable,” the Vancouver resident, who has performed with his band in front of 60,000 people, tells tonight’s crowd. “It’s like the punk scene was in the ‘70s.”

Driven by a love of live music, Briggs has hosted more than 50 shows in his home, featuring the likes of Jay Semko from The Northern Pikes, Acres of Lions, Vince Vaccaro, Steph Macpherson, Jon and Roy, Snailhouse, The Autumn Portrait and Barney Bentall, among others.

The intimate live shows allow artists to try out new music on appreciative fans, as well as share stories about themselves and the songs they perform.

“You can hear a pin drop, and that’s why it’s so amazing,” Briggs says. “It’s like being back stage for everyone.”

The venue gives Verreault the chance to connect with fans, answer questions between sets and perform where there are no distractions. For these reasons, the artist says Briggs is a true “patron of the arts.”

“It’s a well-connected guy whose arranged it so people can come see an acoustic performer play without a P.A. (system) and neon signs crackling in the background, and without a pool table and without a hockey game on TV,” Verreault says. “It’s just a musical, warm place.”

Fans pay $20, every penny of which Briggs passes on to the artists.

“I got my money’s worth when he (Shaun Verreault) walked by and shook my hand,” says Steve Archambault, seated three rows back where Briggs’ living and dining rooms connect.

“This is 10 times the intimacy because they’re right there,” says the Esquimalt resident, who first heard about Victoria House Concert B two years ago. “This is bringing back music the way it should be. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

For details check out Victoria House Concert B on Facebook.