Turning 22 is a momentous occasion for many people. It’s an age when most people graduate college, ready to embark on yet another chapter of the never-ending saga of life. Sadly, for the 22 year-old DAM Haus of 503 E. St., its 22nd year was anything but life changing. Rather, it was life ending. August 30 of this year marked the end of this legendary residential house-venue, which was a big staple of the local punk rock scene.
Most UC Davis students, as well as local Davis residents, probably know next to nothing about the DAM Haus. The house-venue had an average of six shows per year and commonly advertised upcoming shows through flyers, word of mouth, social media and KDVS 90.3 FM, the local UC Davis student run radio station.
KDVS has always had a strong connection to the DAM Haus, especially since 1989; the lease of the Haus has always been traditionally passed from one KDVS DJ to the next. Many of its volunteers and workers have either lived at or attended a show at the Haus.
Sean Johannessen, a former KDVS employee who has lived in the DAM Haus for the past four years, describes the DAM Haus as having a wonderful atmosphere and emphasizes that its presence will be definitely missed.
“DAM was an acronym for Davis Anti-Music and the name started around the ’90s, I think,” Johannessen said. “It’s unfortunate for the community to lose a landmark like that, to see this lifestyle and heritage passed on. It was a great time of my life and part of my growing experience.”
Johannessen’s former Haus roommate, Todd Urick, echoes the same sentiment. Urick is also a former employee of KDVS and graduated from UC Davis with a civil engineering degree.
“The absence of a house for musical performances is a loss for the Davis musical community. It’s very difficult to throw musical events for all ages, and there are very few locations in the city where such activity could occur,” Urick said.
The Haus’s “death” came as a result of the house owners’ decision to repair the extremely derelict house, which required some badly needed TLC. The Haus, as noted by several of the residents who lived there, had been slipping off of its foundation for many years.
“It’s unclear what the owner plans to do with it in the future,” Urick said.
Brent Batty, a KDVS DJ, describes the music that has been played at the Haus as being very diverse through the years.
“It was the best place to see live music. There were all kinds of live music, all styles. Pop, punk, electric – it wasn’t just for punk music,” Batty said.
The shows at the Haus were usually decided spontaneously. Bands would contact the residents of the Haus or a friend would recommend a band. If all the residents of the Haus, which was usually about four people, agreed to the band that wanted to perform, then they’ll set up a date and spread the word.
In its long history, they’ve been host to a lengthy list of bands who have gone in and out of its doors.
Hella, a popular rock band, played their first show at the Haus and Sexy Prison was a regular performer. A list of former performers at the Haus can be found on Daviswiki.org.
At the Haus’s final show on Aug. 30, local musicians, Ty Seagall, Ganglians, and Fine Steps gave an exquisite last-show-ever performance more than befitting of a final goodbye to a legend. Layla Castanon, KDVS programming director who attended the last show described it as “totally rad.”
“The house was falling apart anyways, but it was a lot of fun to mosh pit,” said Alex Surber, KDVS publicity director who also attended the last show. His fellow KDVS co-worker, Arnold Ordanza, programming director agreed.
“At the end of the night, I would step out like I’d just gone swimming,” Ordanza said. “Completely drenched.”
Ben Cartle, business director at KDVS, couldn’t decide which show out of all the shows he’s seen at the Haus he liked the best since he had liked them all, immensely.
“Now that it’s gone, it’s affected the punk scene a lot. It was dirty, but a really good venue,” Carlte said.
The disappearance of DAM Haus has caused much distress to its loyal patrons, so much that KDVS has crafted an obituary for it in its Fall 2011 issue of KDViations, a paper magazine they print quarterly. Former Haus inhabitants, as well as music lovers, hope that possibly, with a heavy dash of wishful thinking that the Haus will be able to come back just as strong as before. Until then, its two decades long history of breathtaking shows stand as a testament and proof of what an amazing unity of music, love, and community can create.
MICHELLE RUAN can be reached at email@example.com.