There's nothing quite like a good house show. It must be the interaction of the band's energy, the crowd's energy, and everyone crammed into one little room that make these shows such an enthralling experience never to be replicated in a bar or club setting. Attendees of house shows are there because they want to be there, they want to see the bands, and they want to be involved. At bars, by comparison, people often come to socialize, smoke cigarettes, get drunk, and casually check out the band from the safety of their tables. Not to say club shows can't be great, but house shows don't carry the same level of pretension, as the people are typically there for the music first, to party second.
Numerous bands in the so-called underground music scene prefer playing house shows over club shows for a variety of reasons. This is especially true among bands who aren't obsessed with having the perfect sound or dealing with the mighty sound-guy, and are involved in music for fun, not necessarily fame and fortune. The interaction and proximity to the audience often brings a more spirited performance than in a half-filled bar that half-ignores the music.
The variety of performers provides constant exposure to different kinds of musicians. At a house show a couple of weeks ago, the audience was treated to the fun acoustic pop of Holly Johnson one minute, and was dodging flailing members of Murder and the Media Machine the next. Not to mention the fact that these shows are all-ages, so the under 21 crowd can get in on the fun.
Of course, there are downfalls to house shows. When a bunch of kids hang out around a house generating loud music, you can bet the Boise Police will assume that something is up. I can't think of any recent examples of the cops shutting down a house show, but it used to happen all the time. Only one angry neighbor has to file a complaint, and/or the show goes on too long, to bring the show to a halt quickly. Due to the noise ordinance, and usually out of respect for neighbors, these concerts are restricted by time, which can be a pain in the ass. Start times are generally early, around 7 p.m., and bands shorten their sets so everyone gets a chance to play. Space is always an issue as well, since you can only fit so many people in someone's house. The PA is usually not the best, and problems arise as this is primarily a space for living, not rocking.
So who, in their right mind, offers up their home to strange visitors, loud music, and the possibility of police arrival? Not many, and it's always a problem. House venues tend to range from the one-off party-and-show to the steady hosting variety which rarely have a long run. It can be very stressful for those putting on the show, because your ass is on the line if anything goes wrong. So, for their sake, it's always helpful when the show's attendees are respectful of the house by not making a mess via food fights, or getting totally wasted. Cost is typically donation oriented so show-goers give what they can, and it's nice not having to worry about a strict cover charge.
People still fondly remember shows at the House of Rock and the Sotano. As far as house venues are concerned, these two places lived unusually long lives and brought a lot of cool music to Boise. Sadly, they are no more, but the torch has been passed.
The Yosada house is tucked neatly into the North End and typically features a very diverse range of bands from punk to grind to indie to folk and everything in between. Current tenant Justin has been booking out of town bands at his house for over a year now, and I've seen some awesome shows at the Yosada. The Riot Factory, a fairly new venue located on Broadway, tends to cater more to the indie rock crowd and features a dazzling aluminum foil coated basement space. There's also Riki Tiki Tava, located just down the street from the Old House of Rock. Riki Tiki Tava sponsored a pretty cool benefit for ALPHA a little while ago and may be putting together more shows in the near future.
As venues for house shows constantly change, they can be hard to find (angrypotato.com has the best info), but are well worth the effort.