Consider this: away from the cover charges and security guards, there exists a world where art and music are made purely for art and music’s sake. There aren’t liquor licenses or curfews to fret over, and the idea of a band guarantee is laughable at best.
“The first real house show I went to was in Ybor. I went to see balls-to-the-wall noise rockers Loins — they were my absolute favorite,” says John Freda. The 21-year-old plays in St. Pete punk outfit Just Satellites and helps run Fuzz Factory, a multi-purpose space in St Pete’s Dome Industrial Park. The room — along with venues like Venture Compound in the ’Burg’s Warehouse Arts District and Tampa’s own Epic Problem — is a prime example of a mostly invisible, yet indescribably vital element of Tampa Bay’s creative culture.
The scene at that Loins set, according to Freda, was a tiny living room with little amps and a broken drum kit stacked up all over the place. Sweaty people bounced off walls, crowd-surfed and collided, which added to the magic. These tiny, usually unheard-of gatherings serve the community in a way that traditional venues never could.
“DIY offers bands freedom to be nonconformists and create interesting music that does not need to be self-conscious about how it will sell,” Permanent Makeup frontman Christopher Nadeau explains. “I’m not talking about being weird for the sake of it, I’m talking about making the exact sounds you want to hear.”
Admission to the purest of these affairs is usually donation-based, the bar policy is almost always BYOB (if there's any booze at all), and most of the money usually goes to the bands with a small portion used for maintaining the “venue.” You might hear punk, noise, ambient, even folk, but the focus is on music, building community, and allowing creatives to express the art they feel compelled to make. House shows also give youthful fans who might not be allowed into traditional bars and venues the chance to experience live music in a supportive, generally safe atmosphere.
Brigid Ochshorn — whom CL profiled in our music issue two years ago — went to her first house show 13 years ago and remembers it making her feel like a teenager, adult and teenager simultaneously. “I didn’t have to buy a ticket,” said Ochshorn, 30, “but I did give the bands what I could afford.”
She knows how essential house shows are, but realizes they aren’t utopias. Cops aren’t always fond of dwellings packed with people listening to loud-ish music, and occasional interpersonal spats are less anonymous in such close quarters. The freedom and sense of community, however, are more than worth it. “When you make music for yourself instead of some overlord, you can make any sound you want and push the extreme,” added Nadeau. “Musically, without DIY, the ecosystem would be a vast wasteland of regurgitated ideas and tired, antiquated ideals drowning in a sea of its own shit.”
DIY bands: Permanent Makeup, No Milk, Landbridge, Awkward Age, Young Egypt, Ten Acres, Rescuer, Ink & Sweat, Merchandise, DC9V, Blast & The Detergents, Hovering Humanoids, Feral Babies.
Venues: Epic Problem, Café Hey, Gram’s Place, The Venture Compound, The Bricks,The Fuzz Factory, Mojo Books & Music
Lee and I became best friends at the end of 7th grade in Seminole Middle…
Some of my best memories of my teens were from hanging with Lee in Seminole…
Sad, sad news. Rest in peace, you will be severely missed "Woofie".... 😢
Rip Lee you are severely missed