RESPECT THE SPACE: DM FOR ADDRESS
Written by Nina Bielawski on June 26, 2019
As I climbed up the grungey stairwell of the parking structure my car was waiting for me in, I formed the expectations of what my night would be. The thing about house shows that makes it such a separation from venue shows is that you never know what to expect, whether you’re part of the audience or even performing. At a designated and law-abiding place of business, you can find a history of detailed experiences and opinions from people who attended shows past. You can be generally confident that the booker did their job and booked the band based on capacity, so you know how many bodies will attend. The somewhat profitable venue has also made it very clear how much this ‘experience’ is worth, and you’ve most likely paid before even setting foot on the block of the venue.
When going to a house show, you are knowingly stepping blindly into uncharted territory. You have no idea where you’re going to be spending the next 2-3 hours, with the exception of a vague clue of an adjective before the word “house” to discern this space from others.(Splash)house; is there a pool somewhere? (Bow Wow)house; will there be a dog? (Blood)house; will I be murdered here? As mysterious as the space is, you can only guess how many people will also have committed to showing up blindly to a random house with music inside. The only judgement we can make is from a peek of the artwork of a flyer posted online. This flyer will have mysterious letters across it, aka bands you’ve never heard of. Points can be acquired for the quality of this show by how many words you recognize on this flyer. The general indicator of a winner for ‘decent show worth getting off my ass for’ generally consists of hearing of 2-3 bands on the flyer. But plenty of times, I’ve traveled completely into the void to shows I haven’t heard of a single band on the flyer.
As my friends and I made our way past the chainlink fence of the driveway and towards the crowd of cooly dressed people our age, we all still had no idea what crowd this Wednesday night show would bring. We took a moment to look around the front porch, seeing a few groups of people wearing band shirts and shag haircuts we didn’t recognize. We walked through the kitchen and down the descending creaky wooden stairs into a pit beaming with red light, vibrations, and emanating with body heat. This is where everyone was. A sea of heads separated us from the performer, Maita. When you’re pleasantly surprised by a basement full of other people who decided this show was good enough to come out to, you can’t help but feel satisfied you decided to come out, too. Despite this larger than expected crowd, the audience was entranced by the soothing silky voice of the lead vocalist. She gently held a red Gibson guitar that matched her red converse shoes below as she sang to all of us lucky enough to be in this dark, dank basement. The lead guitarist focused on picking every string with deep focus. It was apparent the lyrics were the main subject of each song, as each instrument added a soft backing to show the audience the feeling from the words being sung to us like a lullaby.
The next band was Sunbathe, who took the energy up just one notch higher than the last. They were similar to a slowed down version of Snail Mail or Japanese Breakfast; uplifting, indie pop. Everyone couldn’t help but bop their head from right to left, at every hit of the kick drum. The driving guitar lead felt like a ray of sunshine touching your cheeks on a cloudy day. Each member dressed Portland-casual, looking like they had just spent the day hiking Forest Park and came to the show to share how the trees inspired them.
The peak of the show took place outside on the front porch, alley between the garage and house, and the driveway. A place for you to catch up with the faces you’ve drunkenly met at shows past, joke with your friends, people-watch and take notes of all the eye-catching cool outfits everyone is wearing, and most importantly, a smoke/drink break.
I navigated my way through sweaty backs to the front for Wave Action. Wave action is angular surf hardcore dip-dyed in a bucket of bleach. I was caught off guard to see up-close that these band members were much older than the usual house show performer. After the first ten seconds of their set, I was proven that their energy clearly is unmatched to their years. I’ve seen bands half their age not even come close to the stamina of these guys. As the bassist and drummer banged their head to every beat and driving bass lines, their bleached white hair whipped across the green foliage covered basement. After each shockingly energetic short song, the audience shook with applause and screams. The guitarist played technically, which added a unique sound to the dance-inducing simple rock sound. The bassist was able to yell each song and play powerful bass lines, all the while dancing like a punk rock version of Chuck Berry.
And something happened that I’d never seen before at a house show- an encore. They agreed to comply with one last and fast song for us all to remember the trio by.
The last band, Tom Ghoulie, decided not to play and the show was over. Maybe because the energy and love from the crowd would have been hard to top. Or because it was already past midnight, and the last thing we would need is cops spoiling the night. Everyone made their way up the stairs of the basement, and trickled their way outside to the after-show front yard hang out party.
And of course, like at every house show, I drove off from the now quiet suburban street with an unexpected experience. It was a bigger show than I would assume for an otherwise ordinary Wednesday night, and I’ve discovered one of my new favorite bands in Portland. In whatever way, I hope to have my expectations not met at the next show.
Get a taste of the night outside of the basement here:
Wave ActionWritten by Nina Bielawski // Host of Confetti & Gunpowder