After over a mile walk from the Keene State College campus in temperatures as low as minus four degrees, according to accuweather.com, crowds of young people arrived at a small duplex at the end of a street. The house they were entering wasn’t hosting a party, but a concert of three bands from the New England Area.
Known as the Disco, the shows occur in the basement set up by the residents of the home and friends around town. There are currently six residents of the Disco, and shows are thrown once or twice a month. Last Saturday, Feb. 12, was billed as a punk rock Valentine’s Day show.
Current resident Austin Taylor said, “The first thing that caught my eye [about moving in] was I wanted to be with my friends and get out of where I was living for a while…and I knew the Disco was happening. On top of wanting to just be around my friends, I wanted to be a part of the scene up here because where I was, [the scene] was dying I guess.”
Taylor defined the Disco as “a lot of kids who actually want to make music, want to be around music, who want to see live music and want to see bands from all over play.” The Disco operates on a pass-the-hat type donations system were in-between each set someone walks around hoping to collect gas money for the bands to divide equally.
The opener for the night was The Taxidermists, a Western Massachusetts-based post-punk/post-hardcore band. They have played at the Disco before and had no trouble starting the night off with plenty of rowdy sing-a-longs.
In the middle slot were Disco newcomers Sleeper Wave, an Amherst, Massachusetts band bringing a unique blend of emo-revival, screamo and post-hardcore to the table. Being so unlike most music heard in the area, they had the crowd captivated. Vigorous slam dancing and head banging was a constant theme of their intense 20-minute set.
Members Evan Moore, Joe Scibelli and Dylan Kelly all agreed they would rather play in a basement than a club, especially if touring. Moore said, “I don’t see D.I.Y. [do it yourself] as an option, as much as I see it as the only option, it’s how we choose to operate as a band.”
Scibelli afterward said, “We’re all dedicated to music and we just want to play to people…I feel that D.I.Y. to me is just doing whatever you can for the scene and helping out.”
Cutting him off, Moore added, “The people that are throwing this show in this house that we’re in right now, that’s D.I.Y.”
Closing the evening was another band familiar to the Disco, New Haven, Connecticut based ska-punk band Rusty Things. After playing the Disco for their fourth time, lead guitarist Thomas Zoytek said, “[Basement shows] are the best…I lived at a punk house and ran shows…so being here brings me back to 2006 and I remember why I’m doing it again.”
The prospect of the show being profitable to him was no concern. He said, “College kids are way easier to deal with than bar owners…I’m never really told to turn down in a basement…and it’s a much more intimate show. There’s people dancing, banging into you, there’s no stage and you just are the crowd.”
Bassist Zachary Voytek added, “Getting an actual guarantee at a club as a new band is tough, but there’s basement shows where it’s packed with college kids and everyone buys a shirt and throws into the hat and it’s a very profitable night.”
Audience member Ryan Kiah from Springfield, Massachusetts, said he enjoys traveling to shows in the area because there’s so much going on. “Personally I love house shows, everyone is very open and accepting…it gives bands the chance to come play in front of a crowd of people without having to deal with the [expletive] of booking a bar or something.”
In regards to the distance from his home he simply said, “I’ll always travel to see my friend’s play.”
The consensus from bands, residents and audience members was that the Disco was in fact important, but for different reasons. Whether it’s to see bands they’ve never heard of, have a place to hangout with friends and meet new people, play in places they’ve never visited or to find a place in the music community, people keep coming back. Though the doors appear to be shutting for the last time at the end of this upcoming May, the Disco still has plenty left to offer to residents of Keene.
Matt Bacon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.