The Bellevue Estate Gives House Shows a Different Reputation
By: James Ross Kiefer
When the weekend falls upon us inevitably we desire something to catch our interests. Whether it be a house party, an art exhibit or an intimate performance, it’s rather odd when we find ourselves at all three in one setting. One of the niceties of having a house show is that it removes some of the awkwardness found in music venues.
House shows also boast some performer friendly features. Touring acts can generally crash at the house their playing to avoid constant lodging costs. Living rooms are easier to fill in attendance than a concert venue, and a performer doesn’t get skimped on payment by dealing with a percentage cut for a venue’s operating costs.
But what most sells the idea of a house show is the general versatility and comfort. Whether it be filling empty wall space with original art, having a dinner party or setting aside some space in the living room for an acoustic duo to play, just hosting the event in a domestic setting promotes a relaxed and approachable vibe.
The appeal behind house shows lies more to the fact that you’ve been honored with an invitation into someone’s own abode, making you feel like a privileged and select few, and not a member of the general public.
On Friday night I found myself at a house on the cusp of downtown Greensboro. The crumbling cement steps led into a front yard that was beginning to be overrun with vegetation. Right in front of the porch, there was a scenic table supporting a flickering candle, with chairs littered around for people to converse under the moonlight.
The porch was populated with a fair amount of 20-something-year-olds, some smoking cigarettes and others sipping on nondescript, probably alcoholic, beverages.
Inside of the house, there were several rooms elaborately decorated for visitors to explore. One off to the side of the main entrance had a mantle covered in candles, and directly across from the mantle was an American flag draped over the entire wall in a room filled with bright lamps that made the room warm after a while. In the corner of the room was and an assortment of mirrors, each a different size and haphazardly placed.
Leading out of the living room was a hallway that forced a more claustrophobic atmosphere by tarps hanging on the sides of the room, and a tarp on the floor that was covered in small rocks. The rocks made movement across the floor a little challenging, and one had to tiptoe around small a mirrored pedestal centered in the hallway.
In between the two rooms, a band had set up, a musician taking up each corner of the room. Ranging from acoustic bass to synthesizer and banjo, the band played heavily improvised and unrehearsed jazz-like music which changed depending on the mood of the audience.
Sebastien Carpentier and Victor Glass were the organizers of the show and the residents of what they call their house, “The Bellevue Estate.”
“Victor and I wanted to turn our house, The Bellevue Estate, into a space where our friends, as well as artists in the local area, could come and turn it into whatever they want,” Carpentier said.
Performer John Taylor Viar contributed to both the music and artistic preparation for the show. He talked about how he wanted aspects of the show to create figurative thought as well as literal perceptions.
“We thought about rooms people might move in between, and the spaces like the halls, how we might render motion between spaces, how we can take advantage of that perception of a performance, or render things that were unexpected for people that might have expected a very direct experience,” he commented.
Viar said that he sought to create a new experience for attendees by combining visual and musical aesthetics.
“What we meant to do was transform rooms of the house for the sake of experiencing a space in a new way,” Viar explained. “Previously Bellevue Estate hosted visual artists and musical artists, and we can have the idea to abstract both of those worlds to a degree.”
Carpentier said they want to provide a space where people can get together to talk about art, whether it is music, visual or conceptual.
“I think it’s important to have this kind of space for a community to thrive because I feel like there aren’t that many places to do something like this,” Carpentier said. “There may be gallery spaces, but usually that’s more commercial, you have to pay money to do it, and we’re doing everything for free, so It’s like a more DIY gallery space or event to do whatever we want.”
Glass said when people hear the term, “house show,” they automatically assume that the space is merely a music venue. With The Bellevue Estate, Glass said it is more than a live music venue.
“We’re interested in showcasing and celebrating all creative mediums and outlets, music included, while still managing to apply the hospitality found in most homes and the same do-it-yourself ethos and attitude commonly found in most house show venues,” Glass said.
The Bellevue Estate plans to hold more exhibitions and is in the process of coming up ideas for next month. To receive more information about upcoming events, visit their Facebook page.