The young, talented songwriter Gideon Irving is building an audience by playing unusual shows in unusual venues—like my friend's house.
The hand-scrawled orange sign on his fluorescent-green shopping cart reads, "My Name is Gideon.com." His full name is Gideon Irving. He's a young New York singer, songwriter, raconteur, and entertainer. And his favorite performance venues are in strangers' homes, preferably living rooms—and a few choice kitchens—where he parks his prop and musical instrument-filled cart, and then does his act for no fee as long as long as he's fed, allowed to sell his latest CD, and invited to sleep the night.
"Someone's home is a venue like any other with its own unique properties and values," he told me after an exhausting recent tour of New York living rooms. "It is an opportunity to play for small crowds without the hassles inherent in a noisy club, and experience space I wouldn't ordinarily see."
This isn't just a lark: He's been doing it across continents, over hundreds of shows, matching a hippie-era communal ethos with the networking power of the Internet.
The inspiration for this moveable fest came from a "house show" by a band called the Music Tapes (the project of a former member of the venerated '90s indie act Neutral Milk Hotel) he attended two years ago in a Bayside, Queens living room. "Julian Koster is the front man of the band and their performance leapt over boundaries," he said. "It was as much a music show as it was a magic show, a sculptural installation, a twisted story, a nostalgic memory, and a group game. The intimacy of the home lent itself so well to that adventure." This gave Gideon the confidence to try his own intimate shows, including the one I saw at artist Marshall and wife Dee Arisman's birthday party for their cat, named Catman, who just turned 21 (or 100 human years) .