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A basement punk show

The sidewalk vibrates. There’s a distant yelling a block away. You know those basement rock shows you see in movies? That’s where we’re headed.

You’re not sure where the house is exactly. They didn’t release the address until last minute to avoid being broken up by the police. You’ve got the address now but the house number is 15 ½. What is this, Harry Potter and the Mystical Mosh-pit? I never did get into Harry Potter…

A guy in a hoodie shuffles past you carrying a case. Looks like the cases you’d see laying around the band room in high school. A trumpet maybe? We ask him if he’s headed to the show, he nods. He’s in the show. He’s late.

You walk into house. It doesn’t matter whose house it is. It’s the bands’ now. The show started early, around five p.m., to avoid getting noise complaints. Sixty sweaty, tattooed and pierced twenty-somethings packed like sardines into one small room. The walls are shaking. Mattresses pad the windows in attempt to soundproof and mosh-proof the room. Guys claw their way out of the mosh pit clutching bruised bones and bloody noses, leaving a bloody trail behind them. It’s like a Darwinian experiment in there… The smart ones take off their glasses and hand them off to a friend in the back corner to avoid getting their glasses smashed in by someone’s fist or shoe.

These shows are all about preparation. If you care to hear anything after the age of 30 you should probably be wearing ear plugs. In such a small room, you’re basically on top of a speaker wherever you are. The audience and the band are all jumbled together.

I look for my friend in the band and can’t find him. I realize I’m looking too far back. He’s right in front of me. When the guitar gets unplugged from the amp, a guy from the crowd plugs it back into the guitar. Beer bottles sitting atop the speakers shake to the edge and come crashing down. The show stops for nothing. Besides the cops. Or when someone leans on the speaker too hard and the whole sound system comes tumbling down. Then it stops, but only for a minute.

The singer is screaming, guitar and bass players are being pushed around by the crowd. They keep playing. This is why you go to a basement punk show. You don’t go for the screaming. You go for that one special riff that breaks through the shouting. You go for the raw emotion behind those shouts. For the friends that hold your glasses.

If you’re at all curious in the music that gets played at these shows, check out this local Oneonta/Clifton Park band, Dirtpope. The song "Iron Giant" is my favorite. WARNING: The lyrics are explicit.

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