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Concerts with the comforts of home

LEXINGTON- Several times a year, strangers flock to a house just off Tates Creek Road, dubbed The Raven House. They come for food, drink and, most of all, music.

John and Ginger Smithwick have embraced a growing national trend of hosting concerts in their living room.

"Each time a third of the people that come are total strangers, so it's always a nice mix of people," Ginger said. "We love music, so it just brings together everything we like to do."

There are plenty of artists willing to do these intimate shows. On a recent night, it was Ben Sollee, a Lexington native who's become renowned as a cellist and songwriter. He can fill concert halls, but loves the small gigs too.

Sollee said, "It's nice and I think healthy for us to change scale a lot. Getting in a living room with other humans and playing acoustic concerts in the ultimate test of your ability as a musician to be able to connect with an audience."

He can see all 80 people squeezed into the room, those four feet in front of him and those lining the stairs and looking down from the loft. He can tell if the audience is engaged.

"When they are," he said, " it's really rewarding. You can feel everyone in the room connecting."

The concert-goers buy tickets to pay the artists, with any leftover money going to local charities. People often ask if the Smithwicks are worried about their house getting trashed, but that's never been a problem.

The attendees are music lovers who don't want to ruin a good thing.

Few music lovers get to know a performer the way these hosts do.

"We always invite the artists, if they're from out of town, to stay with us," John said. "We've got a spare bedroom in the basement, so they're appreciative of having a nice place to stay. Then that next morning when you wake up, we have coffee and talk about them more personally."

The Smithwicks say they aren't trying to compete with bars or theaters-- just offering a unique experience.

Regular attendee Lorraine Hinersman prefers the living room show to any other venues.

"Your ears aren't ringing when you leave, and you get to see the performers up close, not on a huge screen," she said. "You love their music even more because you're up close and personal to them."

No doubt, you've been to a few concerts you'll never forget, For many people, those memorable moments are made in a single family home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Lexington, Kentucky.

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To get more information about Living Room Concerts, go to livingroomshows.org

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