With Third Space closed, underground musicians struggle to book events
KDVS held yet another show at the Turtle House this quarter, featuring KDVS DJs, Xris and Da Rap Nerd. The music was undetectable from outside — the sound completely trapped in the vicinity of a dimly lit basement led by a small flight of stairs. The event was OK Radio’s “Indie Given Nights,” and it opened with East Bay rapper Danny Palidin and local hip hop artist Paul Willis.
People began pouring in, and soon the room was swarming with sweaty bodies. Despite the amount of discomfort and lack of breathability, everyone was too engrossed in the music to notice. For many, The Turtle House basement was an escape from the world above.
Unfortunately, it also serves as one of the few venues left in Davis where artists can perform freely without noise complaints. Its sound-proof basement enables musicians to play loudly and late into the night.
It’s been a tough year for underground music in Davis, especially after the shutdown of Third Space Art Collective. Official venues in Davis, like the Mondavi Center, tend to cater to genres like classical, bluegrass, folk and jazz.
Owen Martin, the KDVS events director and a third-year sustainable agriculture and food systems major, says that, without official venues, musicians need to opt for other solutions, transforming their own homes into temporary venues. The main issue in hosting DIY events in a house is running the risk of never hosting there again — one noise complaint and the show is over.
“It’s been immensely difficult to host shows,” Martin said. “The only venues left in Davis for this manner of thing are people’s personal homes. Unfortunately, either not many people open up their homes, or when they do say they’re interested in hosting, I give them dates and none of them work for them. Currently, the only shows I’ve been able to book have been at established house venues, Papa’s Palace and Turtle House. While there are live performances at local eateries such as Woodstock’s Pizza, they’re fundamentally different from what we strive for at house shows. It would be nice to see another Third Space pop up in Davis or more people open their houses.”
Mitchell Rotter-Sieren, the KDVS general manager and a fifth-year chemical engineering major, has noticed a downturn for underground music in Davis this year. Though this decline is largely affected by venue complications, it may also be impacted by a decrease in local bands.
“There used to be KDVS bands, and when they formed, they accelerated the music scene because they were passionate about it. There were bands that constantly played shows, but they’re not around anymore,” Rotter-Sieren said.
Unlike a fraternity party, the purpose of DIY shows isn’t to get a large crowd, but rather a genuine audience. KDVS hosts shows to support upcoming artists and, in turn, provides music for people that wholly appreciate it. Sadly, there aren’t as many shows as anticipated.
“The point isn’t to get as many people as possible,” Rotter-Sieren said. “It’s for the people who enjoy this to congregate and enjoy it together. The problem about being niche is the off-years. Ideally, the music world would thrive and still be niche. That’s just not the way it works, I guess.”
In spite of recent struggles, locals continue to show immense support, making it possible for DIY shows to continue in Davis. After all, the primary goal of these events is to gain support for indie musicians.
To those like Rotter-Sieren, underground music culture became an integral part of their college experience. Fourth-year psychology major Kenzo Mann and his friends were even inspired to create their own band, Knobby, on the rise this year. Regardless of the obstacles that come with DIY shows, there’s a beauty in being able to perform in an unofficial venue such as someone’s basement.
“I always prefer playing in people’s houses,” Mann said. “House shows always seem to be the most energetic, which is a large part of why I love playing them. I also really appreciate the DIY atmosphere at house shows […] I love to see people taking matters into their own hands when it comes to music.”
The Midnight Avocados, a progressive indie rock band in California, was able to connect with KDVS last month through an online DIY booking forum they use to network with artists and bookers in the West Coast.
Austin Coleman, the head vocalist, pianist, writer and manager of the band, has faced similar hurdles when booking shows. But despite this hassle with booking events, there’s an indescribable vibrancy in DIY music that makes musicians want to do it over and over again.
“Gigging for starting bands is difficult today,” Head said. “Either you’re not their type, or don’t have the following. We break out teeth trying to get shows, even in the Central Valley, where we are situated. Having performed the Bay Area several times already, the equation usually comes out the same: DIY house parties and events are more alive today than ever.”
For Head, musicians strive to produce sound by any means necessary. Whether it means giving up food or comfortable sleep, this blinding passion has no limits.
“The best part about being in this group is being able to do what we love for a living,” Head said. “Musicians are odd creatures willing to give up materialism in exchange for melodies. We’ve slept in vans, went days without eating and have gone weeks without making a single dollar, but when you are on stage, none of that matters and you are never blinded by why you chose this profession.”
Written by: Becky Lee — firstname.lastname@example.org