A living room concert

It's Sunday morning ... And life could not be more perfect right now, at this moment. Even this cold, gray December day and the snow on the ground aren't pulling me down.

Kates and I are sitting here at the dining room table. She's reading a book, and I'm catching up on e-mails, reading news articles and Facebook-ing on my Christmas gift. Phoebe is at her best, happy and content, scampering around the living room, playing with her blocks, her baby doll propped at her side.

"I feel like I should be doing something," Kates just said.

"Like what?" I asked.

"I don't know," she said with a laugh.

For a mere a couple hours this morning -- a rarity these days, it seems -- we're at peace and relaxed. Kates' winter break commenced Friday, so she has no papers to grade or plans to write. The house is clean and decorated for Christmas. There's no pressure, at this moment, to get something done ... Ask me about that again in another week when we're deep into holiday gatherings and preparing to load a moving truck.

Serving as the soundtrack for this state of bliss is the music of Jon Troast, whom we saw in concert last night -- at our house. He's playing on our iPod for the umpteenth time while I write this.

Kates and I got hooked on Troast last spring as he was beginning an ambitious "100 Concerts in 100 Days" tour during which he played living rooms across the country. An independent folk-rock singer/songwriter, Troast prefers to get his music out by playing in people's homes where listeners are engaged versus smoky bars where 50 or 60 people are constantly moving in and out of the door.

I interviewed him for a newspaper story, and Kates and I started listening to his music. We fell hard for his sound -- Kates called him the male version of Ingrid Michaelson -- and we signed up to host one of Troast's living room concerts. We couldn't nail down a summer date, but Troast had some dates open this month ...

So we scheduled a performance last night and invited some of our closest, musically-inclined friends to our house for a holiday party and "A Living Room Concert with Jon Troast."

We opened the doors around 6 and had a house crowded with good friends, food and beverages by the time Jon arrived around 6:45. Phoebe, dressed in her fleece Christmas pajamas and skipping from room to room, also was entertaining.

Around 7, we moved our guests to our downstairs den, which Kates and I had transformed into an intimate concert venue, lit with Christmas lights and candlelight ... Jon set up in a corner with his guitar and went to it.

He typically plays for an hour, but I think he went for almost an hour and a half -- and I'm not sure anyone wanted him to quit. I think it's safe to say that from the first song, our friends were finding as much enjoyment in listening to him as Kates and I have found the last nine months. ... The moment he launched into that first song, all I could think about was how amazing it was -- after all these months of listening to him on an iPod -- to be hearing him and seeing him live. There's nothing like that feeling, and it's one of the things I love so much about seeing my favorite artists in concert. And the fact that he was playing in our house ...

He filled the room with a fantastic cross of upbeat and mellow songs from all four of his albums. By the end, he must've played at least a dozen songs; I was having so much fun just listening to the music that I wasn't bothering with taking notes on a set list.

His set included the nursery rhyme-inspired "Dish And The Spoon;" the amusing "Living Room Tour" about his experiences on the road; a charming tribute he wrote about mothers he observed during his living room tour, "They Call Her Mama;" a touching song about his adopted sister, "Wedding Ring;" the sing-along fave, "Heaven's Got The Time." He also sang "Sunshine Love" and “Just Enough.” ... I requested one of my favorites, "We'd Be Good For Us," by singing the chorus in front of our crowd because I couldn't think of the song title. Jon took it and played it to perfection.

Listening to his music this morning, now I'm wishing I also would have asked for some more of our personal faves, like "Loneliest Girl," "The Longest Time," "Knock Down," "You're That Way," and especially "What We Become." Another time, maybe.

Jon filled the time between songs with stories about the music video he'd spent most of the day filming, and his experiences staying at people's homes and waking up to dog kisses. He took any question that we threw at him, mostly about his songwriting and recording processes. Kates also served him multiple glasses of water.

For the first half of the concert, Phoebe cuddled on my lap, nibbled on crackers and listened quietly to the music. Eventually she started swaying on my lap, and by the end she was dancing right in front of Jon with him graciously playing to her, too. (See the picture above from our friend Raechel.)

After the last song, Jon gathered us for a group picture -- something he does at the end of each of his living room concerts. We crowded his CD table, handing over cash for copies of his music and passed the discs around for him to sign. A few of us engaged him in more conversation, and learned some of his favorite artists are Coldplay, Norah Jones, Ingrid Michaelson and GusterSound familiar?

After the last guest departed and we said our final good-byes, Kates and I just looked at each other and smiled … and then couldn’t stop talking about how enjoyable the evening was. We’re still talking about it this morning.

It was a perfect night of great friends, great food and great music.

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