It’s hot, stuffy and the sound of bass is permeating the room. You’re sitting on an amplifier – or maybe someone’s couch inches away from the band – and surrounded by happy people. People are dancing, and you might feel like doing so too, because you’ve just entered a Bellingham house show.
Grant Eadie, the brains behind local experimental electro-pop sensation Manatee Commune said, “[House shows are] all-ages events and something that all people can go to… [The house show scene] is around so that people can enjoy local music.”
These dens, basements and living rooms cater to those seeking local music where it originates: the homes of Bellingham, with colorful names like the Turtle on Myrtle Street, Lavender House and Red Czar.
The benefit of these shows is that they are open to people under 21, a rarity in a town where most popular music is played at venues that drive revenue from serving alcohol and restrict minors.
According to local musicians, finding people who host, go to or play at house shows is the best way to get into the house show loop. Local bands also often post on their Facebook pages about upcoming concerts.
“In my experience there is a lot of alternative rock [at house shows], because [alternative rock can have] a huge variety,” said senior Charlie Walentiny, bassist of The Fire Oregon.
“What you get is a lot of Pacific Northwest sweater-rock. You know, Death Cab for Cutie kind of thing. You get a lot of one-time stuff from groups that aren’t super-serious. A lot of electronic side-projects. A lot of bigger local bands that play stuff they normally wouldn’t play, or maybe go under a different name. It’s either going to be your normal setup: guitar player, drummer, bass player and keyboard player, or weird stuff,” said Walentiny.
But even in this diverse arena of sound, the type of music generally played at house shows transcends popular genres.
“The general vibe is a sense of camaraderie, because you naturally want to keep great artists and music going,” Eadie said. “There’s a huge sense of respect.”
Normally bands that play at house shows also do it on their own dime, perhaps collecting small amounts of money after their shows in donations for purchases to cover recording or equipment costs.
“It’s a very supportive community,” said Make.Shift Director Cat Sieh. Make.Shift, located on Flora St., is Bellingham’s only all-ages arts and music venue.
Like guardians of a treasure, members of the house show community have tried to protect their events by keeping it a secret from people who might otherwise turn their house concert into a house party.
Yet most members of the community keep in mind that while the concerts are social, the true purpose is to enjoy the sound and the vibe.
“I don’t think that police try to bust house shows because they believe it’s a very constructive a way of partying. It’s not about being a crazy twenty-year-old, it’s about appreciating the music,” said Eadie.