Notes From Underground: If You Want Something Done Right…
Between the young exiting in droves, and the old moving here in equal numbers, the Rogue Valley is a bit like the Iowa of the Pacific Northwest: charming and homely, but ultimately a few years behind on the latest fads. Consequently, the pervading musical milieu in local clubs is often constrictive enough that many young bands and fans not interested in stale rehashings of bluesy ballads or punky bluegrass are choosing to reject this push-pull paradigm altogether in favor of a DIY ethic; ignoring the clubs altogether, and making stages out of their living rooms. That is, house shows are blossoming across the valley.
A cornerstone of the house show scene is Ashland’s A/B Normal House, which hosts local and touring bands once a month.
The venue opened about a year ago with no intention of being a venue at all, but just an outlet for friends to express themselves musically to an inconsequential congregation. However, the show I attended had at least forty people crammed into a modest living room, shuffling about. Peach Dream and City Wolves from Utah and Nevada, respectively, purged angst in the form of catchy indie rock that managed to form an air of assuaging camaraderie. It was a precious thing to witness.
Speaking to Derek Geig, one of the residents, immediately revealed to me how rapidly a bunch of bored youths can form an organic movement based around nothing more than music, beer, and good company. I also spoke with Leighton Smith of the band Local News, as well as the founder of the Southern Oregon House Show Network.
“The DIY house shows model really puts the focus on the music,” he said. “House shows take away the incentive to buy drinks or to sell tickets or to advertise your establishment and puts all the focus onto the performing acts.”
Smith went on, “Being a performer myself and playing shows at bars, clubs, and DIY house shows, it is truly amazing how different the vibe at house shows can be. It brings the people of a community together and gives them a space to meet and create. The connections and communication between local bands and house owners to bring these shows to fruition is immense. But at the end of the day it creates a stronger sense of community and helps expose local and struggling artists to new fans.”
Along with the Messenger’s Music Editor, Smith has started up a Facebook page, Southern Oregon House Show Network. “We hope to try and bring more people in the community together and put more control into the hands of artist to play more, and share their art with more people,” Smith explains. “With a lot of houses choosing to do all ages shows it allows not only younger music listeners to enjoy amazing live music but also for bands to share their music with people that they otherwise couldn’t.”
This philosophy of rejecting the wonted means of establishing live music is alluring in many ways, most of all in its probity and candor. The meager cover charge is only the icing on this cake of morality, the major draw by my estimation is the lack of constraints put on artists, and the freedom to enjoy the music however one would like to.
Pyrate Punx belongs to this system, subsisting as a non-profit organization around the world with a mission to provide a moderately safe space for bands to be heard by kids of all ages. Just be advised to stay away from the pit unless one is looking to throw down. A local incarnation of this phenomenon is the Medford Pyrate Punx House, which is only half as unkempt as one would expect. The basement is charmingly cramped, adorned with mutinous and leftist artwork, and a comfy couch placed cleverly at the back of the room to cushion whoever may get shoved against the back wall.