9.28.2011

Spacement

Reno Fucking Nevada!
If spending time in basements will kill you, my days are numbered. I've had my front teeth almost knocked out singing along with Scared of Chaka, sparked love holding hands watching a local band rip it up, and passed out after playing a show with walking pneumonia. All in tiny basements. From the dankest mildew and mold riddled northwest basements, to the tiny, poorly wired practice spaces my friends and I practically lived in during college, my teen years are defined by those subterranean walls.

Punk and hardcore belongs to the basement. I say this not out of nostalgia nor a misguided punk rock ethos desperately trying to conceal its precious secrets from the outside world. In fact, I am loathe to admit it. I moved to Chicago recently and it has a bustling and vibrant music scene. There's a great music venue on every block. I've seen bands that never would have made it to Reno. Some I've seen multiple times.

La Dispute was touring on their Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair LP and came through three times last year. I saw them twice at real venues and once in a tiny co-op basement. At the venues, they stood on the stage and played their songs. Shows were fine. But in the basement, they shook the walls. During the album's climax, "The Last Lost Continent," I cried. I didn't tear up and almost cry; I good and cried. There were so many bodies crammed into that fire-hazard, I couldn't even see the band. But I heard every note. I could hear Jordan breathing during breakdowns. They were perfect in that disgustingly sweaty room. We were all at home.

Packing a room with a low ceiling with kids nullifies echo and makes for excellent acoustics. The heart of punk and hardcore beats best in basements. I've seen hundreds of shows. The five that I remember most all took place in basements. Sure, a lot of the time the PA blows, you can't hear the vocalist worth shit, and there's a good chance cops will break the show up before the headliner plays, but it's no coincidence bands are at their best in garages, basements and living rooms. The sound of a mic'd drum makes me want to curb stomp a sound engineer. Trashy, lo-fi, rock 'n' roll amps sound like shit through a sound board. Audiences spitting on your face as they sing along is maritally intimate. Hour of the Wolf; Life in Pictures; La Dispute; I, Robot; and Scared of Chaka branded me in close quarters. Radiohead sounds amazing at an outdoor festival, but punk feels best near a water heater.

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