Dunbar House Nestled along a line of suburban, cookie-cutter homes in South Tempe. It’s a humble, unassuming backdrop for Phoenix’s revived underground music scene.
Guided by the moon and the occasional street light, I walked into the driveway early Saturday night. Stinking weed swirled in a sea of Buryats, liberty nails, and neon hair under the gaze of blue LED lights.
About 30 people crowded into the house’s modestly sized dining room, already ringing out for the live music and party night.
Paul Quinones, drummer for local bands A continent called zombie And the malaiseset up a DIY venue in Tempe at the start of 2022. He started going underground shows over a decade ago when he was a freshman in high school, and playing in bands inspired him to open his house on select weekends throughout the month for performances.
“It started with my roommate, Matt,” he said. “We both have bands and wanted a place – because we rehearse here anyway – a place to perform as well when things aren’t happening.”
take the stage
For a band just starting out, booking at The Rebel Lounge or The Nile Underground—ideal venues for local Phoenix bands—is a lofty goal, Quinones said.
Venues like this can offer home teams a bigger 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 in a specific location, they have to make a space for themselves. All that is required is some basic musical equipment, a flyer, and a website.
Sites like The Trunk Space, a local arts nonprofit, have been helping fill this gap for young artists for years, and it’s not uncommon for a band to host a show at their home every now and then.
Read more: The Phoenix music scene in a nutshell
said Brian Fuga, bass player for the three-piece indie rock band Excuse.
An ASU graduate who graduated with a degree in mathematics in 2019, he runs Vouga excuse houseAnother popular website for home shows.
When it comes to home shows, you don’t have to go through the trouble of running into promoters trying to get a spot on the bill. For a band, the process is usually as quick and easy as simply arriving at a house and asking to play.
Regardless of the state of the economy, the standard coverage fee for a home offer rarely exceeds $10. Since there are no tickets, and only payment is at the door, you don’t have to overpay Ticketmaster fees.
For Fuga, his pricing is a point of pride.
“I was always charged $5,” he said. “That’s kind of my philosophy.”
The affordability of these shows is a selling point. It doesn’t matter if you’re a high school senior entering the scene or a broke college student; If you have at least $5, you can come up with the hottest local bands in the Phoenix area.
Vouga uses the money to pay the bands after they are hired and goes home with a little profit himself.
“We don’t really think about money,” he said. “The money is mainly so I only make a little bit so I’m not upset at the end of the night, just cleaning and all.”
Worth the trouble
Vouga wasn’t playing with his band the Saturday night I went to Alibi House. Instead, he was busy preparing his living room for three other bands and about 60 people to pack into his tiny home in East Mesa.
By day, Voga works for an insurance company. By night, he runs a DIY venue out of his rented home for veteran bands and up-and-coming artists looking to get their start.
A lot of preparation goes into putting on a house show—booking the bands, promoting the show, and making room for dozens of people to celebrate in your house. Running a live venue out of your home, with up to 60 people at one time, can get 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 got 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 showed up like a bunch of people and then there was a giant hole in the wall after that,” he said. “It was really bad.”
That Sunday, Fuga and his roommates spent all day cleaning and became drywall experts, anxiously awaiting the inspection company’s arrival the next day.
When the time came, all the inspector needed was a picture of their sinks.
“The carpet was garish,” he said, “and she didn’t even comment on how clean the place was.”
Giving your title can be a little stressful, Quinyones said, but it’s still rewarding to give new teams a chance to get started.
“There’s a show A Continent Named Coma played with a few other bands… It was a killer show, a lot of people showed up. We jumped off the roof after that and everything,” he said. “I just had such a good time on this show that I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is something I want to keep doing,’ you know, it’s worth the hassle you’re going through.”
What I learned after a night at Dunbar House is that, in a house show, it’s about more than the music coursing through your veins – it’s about the community that exists in these shows.
“There’s a community that has grown up around the house that definitely has a life of its own, except for our band,” Fuga 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 was beginning to form.
It was a warm night and the smell of cigarettes was in the air. A steady crowd kept rolling in as pockets of people formed around the wooden halfpipe and pool that occupied the courtyard.
After the second set was over, someone said to me, “You missed the best band.” Dripping with sweat and elated from listening to the previous band, he repeated the phrase to anyone and everyone within earshot for the next few minutes.
“It was an environment I hadn’t seen before, you know, so it was really cool,” said Dean Cheney, a freshman studying folk music. “It’s an environment that I felt great to be a part of.”
Cheney, who plays at venues around the valley with his band aerialfinds something special and liberates in “do-it-yourself” places.
“We usually play a little looser in those places, and have a little more fun,” he said. “I think that’s the kind of thing we’re most comfortable with.”
For fans, part of the magic of a home show is how close and personal the experience can be.
“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 folk music.
But when the music blasts and people push each other inside the house, the outdoor scene is surprisingly low-key. Some people experience half the pipe, while others make new friends. Music from the inside bleeds into the outdoors, adding to the house’s casual, enveloping atmosphere.
Jaden Jones, singer and guitarist for the band Home Bethanyas well as Chaney’s bandmate, also discover that there are more opportunities to interact with the audience during and after the sets.
“With venues, like a lot of times, teams will wander around, but also a lot of times you see them just go backwards and disappear,” said Jones. “House shows are just a lot more social shows.”
“I feel very fortunate to be in a place where there is such an outstanding landscape of so many different species.”
Edited by Alexis Moulton, Camila Pedrosa, Sam Ellefson, and Greta Forslund.
This story is part of The Affect Issue, released November 2, 2022. See entire post over here.
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Sofia BalasubramanianDiversity officer
Sophia Balasubramanian is currently working as Diversity Officer at State Press. She previously worked at Echo as an editor and reporter.
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