Make Your Own or Die: Finding a Community in the Local Live Music Scene

Make Your Own or Die: Finding a Community in the Local Live Music Scene

Dunbar House Located along a line of suburban, cookie cutter homes are in South Tempe. It’s a humble, unassuming backdrop to a revived underground music scene in Phoenix.

Guided by the moon and the occasional streetlight, I walked into the driveway early on a Saturday night. The smell of stinky weed pervaded a sea of ​​pomegranates, freedom nails, and neon hair under the gaze of the blue LED lights.

About 30 people crowded into the house’s modestly sized dining room, already ringing for live music and party night.

Paul Quinones, drummer for local bands A continent called a zombie And the malaiseset up a DIY venue in Tempe in the beginning of 2022. He started going to underground shows over a decade ago when he was a freshman in high school, and playing on teams inspired him to open his home on set weekends throughout the month for shows.

“I started with my roommate Matt,” he said. “We both have bands and we wanted a place – because we train here anyway – a place to give performances also when things aren’t happening.”

take the stage

For a band just starting out, bookings at The Rebel Lounge or The Nile Underground—perfect venues for local Phoenix bands—are a lofty goal, Quinones said.

Such venues can offer local teams a larger platform, but also have high barriers to entry, such as requiring a lot of experience, having the right equipment or having enough money to book a show.

This is when DIY places come into play. If the band can’t start playing at a specific spot, they need to make space for themselves. All that is required is some basic musical equipment, a flyer and a website.

Sites like The Trunk Space, a local non-profit arts organization, have been helping fill this gap for young artists for years, and it’s not uncommon for a band to host a show in their home now and then.

Read more: Phoenix music scene in a nutshell

Brian Fogga, bassist for the three-piece indie rock band Excuse.

An Arizona State University graduate who graduated with a degree in mathematics in 2019, runs Vouga excuse housewhich is another popular website for home deals.

When it comes to home shows, there’s no need to go through the trouble of reaching out to promoters trying to get a spot on the bill. For a band, the process is usually as quick and easy as just getting to a house and ordering a play.

Regardless of the state of the economy, the standard coverage fee for a home offer rarely exceeds $10. Since there are no tickets, only payment at the door, there is no need to pay the excess Ticketmaster fee.

For Voga, its prices are a source of pride.

“I was always paid $5,” he said. “That’s kind of my philosophy.”

The affordability of these offers is a selling point. It doesn’t matter if you’re a high school student entering the scene or a crushed college student; If you have at least $5, you can come up with the hottest local teams in the Phoenix area.

Vouga uses the money to pay bands after they’re hired and go home with a little profit on his own.

“We don’t really think about money,” he said. “Money is basically so I only make a little so I’m not upset at the end of the night, just cleaning and everything.”

worth the trouble

Vouga wasn’t playing with his band on the Saturday night I went to Alibi House. Instead, he was busy preparing his living room for three more teams and about 60 people to pack into his small home in East Mesa.

By day, Foga works in an insurance company. At night, he runs a DIY place outside his rental home for veteran bands and up-and-coming artists looking to get their start.

A lot of the preparation goes into putting on a home show – booking the bands, promoting the show, and making room for a dozen people to party in your house. Running a place straight out of your home, with up to 60 people at a time, can become unpredictable.

He just hopes he can get through the night without too much damage.

“We’re preparing for a show. It’s July and we’re getting an email from them (the owner) saying they’re coming for an inspection,” he said, recalling the story with a laugh.

“It was one of those shows where he appeared like a group of people, and then there was a giant hole in the wall after that,” he said. “It was really bad.”

That Sunday, Fogga and his roommates spent the whole day cleaning up and becoming drywall experts, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the inspection company the next day.

When the time came, all the inspector needed was a picture of their ponds.

“The carpet was glowing, and she didn’t even comment on how clean the place was,” he said.

Giving your title can be a bit disconcerting, Quinones said, but it still pays to give new teams a chance to get started.

“There’s a show that A Continent Named Coma played with a few other bands… It was a killer show, a lot of people attended. We jumped off the roof after that and everything,” he said. “I just had such a great time on that show that I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s something I want to keep doing,’ you know it’s worth the trouble you’re going through.”

What I learned after a night at Dunbar House is that, in a home show, it’s about more than the music running through your veins—it’s about the community that’s in those shows.

“There is a community that has grown around the house and definitely has its own life, except for our band,” Fogga said.

At the moment

After watching the band’s first set, I decided to check out the scene in the backyard, where a small crowd began to form.

The night was warm and the smell of cigarettes was flying in the air. A steady crowd continued to roll while pockets of people formed around the half of the wooden pipe and pool that occupied the courtyard.

“You missed the best band,” someone said to me after the second set. Dripping in sweat and exhilarated from listening to the previous band, he chanted the phrase to anyone and everyone within earshot for the next few minutes.

“It was an environment I had never seen before, you know, so it was really cool,” said Dean Cheney, a freshman studying folk music. “It’s an environment that I felt wonderful to be a part of.”

Cheney, who plays in places around the valley with his band aerialfinds something special and breaks loose in “make-it-yourself” places.

“We usually play more loosely in those places, and have a little more fun,” he said. “I think that’s the kind where we feel most comfortable.”

For audiences, part of the home’s show charm is how close and personal it is to the experience.

“You have to stand right in front of the band. You’ll be about inches away from the microphone,” said Alton Chaney, a sophomore studying popular music.

But when the music blasts and people push each other inside the house, the outdoor scene is surprisingly low. Some people test half-pipe, while others make new friends. Music from inside bleeds outdoors, adding to the house’s casual and enveloping ambiance.

Jaden Jones, singer and guitarist for the band Bethany HomeAs well as Chaney’s bandmate, he also discovers that there are more opportunities to interact with the audience during and after sets.

“With places, like a lot of the time, teams will roam, but also a lot of times you see them go backwards and disappear,” Jones said. “House shows are just so much more social shows.”

“I feel very fortunate to be in a place where there is such an outstanding spectacle for so many different species.”

Edited by Alexis Moulton, Camila Pedrosa, Sam Ellefson and Greta Forslund.

This story is part of The Affect Issue, released on November 2, 2022. See the entire post over here.


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Sophia Balsubramaniandiversity officer

Sophia Balsubramanian is currently working as a diversity officer at the state press. She previously worked at Echo as an editor and reporter.


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