Performing live in a small environment, like an artist's opening reception, gives an opportunity to experiment with ambient music.
Off the stage and on the floor, the showmanship aspect of music is minimized. In a very real way, the art of music is emphasized. It may be obvious to say, but the art feeds art. Being surrounded by visual art adds a different sense of purpose to the performing art.
Plus, the energy of the art patrons is so positive. The attendees at an artist's opening reception are a slice of people that are open to new ideas and creativity.
That enables a building of energy that gives a more direct connection to the people who are listening to the music created in front of them. The interaction is direct and "in your face". There is an incredible sense of immediacy to the performance of music.
Any musician who has to deal with the technology of mixing sound for a stage performance and interfacing with a light show knows that there is a level of distraction associated with the mechanics of translating the music into a big show. Is the monitor mix right? Is the guitar too loud? Can all the vocalists hear themselves. Is the audience hearing a decent mix?
There is a sensory overload that can be overcome only by letting the music come out by playing in "automatic mode". The rest of the brain is occupied trying to balance everything mentally, making sure that the sequence of light cues is being followed. The active brain is paying more attention to the script for the show than to the music.
In a small, artistic environment, the concentration can be on the music. Yet, the appreciative audience provides a level of feedback that ensures a build-up of the energy level associated with the production of music that moves people.