Taylor Manning

Staff Writer

Driving through Lakeland, you will pass by many unique views and businesses. Lakeland is special like that. Not only do we have the beautiful scenery of lakes and swans but we have unique, small town businesses that welcome us all. But driving through the typical Lakeland, suburban neighborhood you may not notice much different than what is in the surrounding cities. Some small houses, some medium sized, some with more history than others but all in all Lakeland is filled with your typical neighborhoods.

One of these homes that you may be passing by, however, also doubles as a concert venue. Becky Abel and her husband Tom have been hosting concerts in their Lakeland home for just shy of four years. Since their start in 2011 they have hosted 47 concerts and have their next planned for October 18th with Larry Mangum.

In about 2009, Abel fell in love with a band called Mad Agnes, a folk trio from Connecticut. After signing up for their mailing list, two of the members of the band reached out to her and asked if she would host a house concert. “My first reaction was ‘no way!’” Abel shares, “I didn’t want people coming into my home.” Eventually she organized a concert for them at the once Arts on the Park in downtown Lakeland.

As time went on, Abel joined a group called Concerts in Your Home and came across a Tennessee performer looking to book a concert in Florida. “On a whim, I approached him,” Abel said. “We set the show date for February 5, 2011.” She invited all of her current friends and people in her neighborhood, about 25 of whom showed up.

Her second concert is how the idea really came to life. After subscribing to a music magazine called “Dirty Linen” she received a free CD from “The Dreamcicles.” On their Facebook page, they finally announced they were coming to Florida and had one more show to book. “Whimsically I said, ‘Me!’” I couldn’t believe they took me up on it, but they did,” Abel explained. “Cary asked me for promotional purposes on her website what the name of my ‘series’ was.”

The idea of house concerts for Abel turned from a fun party at her house to a series, and that is when she came up with the name Among Friends Music- House Concerts Series and had a good friend build her a WordPress website.

Most of the music you will find being played at Abel’s house concerts is described as bluesy, folk music. “My parents loved folk music and I grew up listening to The Brothers Four, The New Christy Minstrels and The Weavers,” she shares, “I went to Girl Scout Camp in the 1960s and all the counselors were playing Bob Dylan, Pete Seger and Woody Guthrie revival songs on their guitars at the nightly campfires, and teaching us to sing the harmonies.” She describes these times as being when she was greatly influenced on the type of music she enjoys.

Most of Among Friends Music home concerts have about 20 guests—their maximum capacity is 30. Abel has become to love the atmosphere of home concerts and doesn’t plan on moving to an actual business location or venue. “We appreciate how people come just for the music,” Abel explained. She says that at home concerts it is just about the music, no one has to feel obligated to come with a friend and there are no loud distractions of a talkative crowd, blaring football games or clinking dishes.

The way house concerts work allows Abel to run her concerts without a business license, special zoning or a liquor license. Abel does not have a required cost to attend, but suggests a $15 to $20 donation. All of the donations go to the artists—Among Friends Music does not make any money off of the concerts. “Therefore, we are not an operating business,” Abel explained. “And the performers do much better than they do at a typical small venue in town.”

If you are interested in attending one of the Among Friends Music house concerts, you can visit their website at amongfriendsmusic.com and contact her to RSVP and get all the additional information you need.