Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Teenager vs. An Adult - The Basement Show Edition

A couple of weekends ago I was chatting with my friend (we’ll call her K because I’m too lazy to make up another nickname for her) and she mentioned that Screaming Females were playing a basement show nearby. K had never been to a basement show and was interested in going. Since I essentially cut my teeth on basement shows as a teenager, I thought this was a grand idea.

For those of you who don’t know, a basement show is essentially a bunch of bands playing in someone’s residential basement (and I'm not talking about a finished basement in Mommy and Daddy's house, either. Think more "black mold" and "possible death") and New Brunswick is relatively famous for this sort of thing. Teenage Jenny Jerkface loved going to these shows – it was a great way to see a lot of bands in an extremely intimate setting and for a nominal price (back in the day it was only couple of bucks). Also, it was totally kick-ass.

 More or less how I remember a basement show. An awesome (albeit sweaty as fuck) time!!

That being said, I hadn’t really been to a basement show since I was in my early twenties but was reasonably confident they would be just as awesome now as they were back then. I figured it might be a little strange to have a bunch of “old” ladies rolling on up to some punk rock house and hanging out with a bunch of teenagers, but I wasn’t too worried about it.

Okay, that’s kind of a lie. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the fact that I would be the creepy cryptster lurking in the back.

 This doesn't exactly have anything to do with this post but it made me laugh and possibly pee a little. Mainly because I've been told I'm even dickier now than I was when I was a teenager. Fuck those people.

As the day neared, I became more excited. I began to feel nostalgic about all the old shows I had been to and recalled fondly the days of seeing bands like Lifetime and The Bouncing Souls in some random basement (Handy St., I believe). I was pretty stoked when the day finally came and K’s husband picked all of us up to go to the show.

And then I started to get a little weirded out by the age thing, which actually kind of surprised me. K’s husband wasn’t actually going to the show with us; instead he was going to drop us off and I suddenly had memories of all those times as a teenager when I had to beg Daddy (not a)Jerkface to drop me off at the corner so no one would know I was the dork whose parents drove her to shows.

 Because nothing is cooler than rolling up with your Dad in one of these bad boys. (Ironically, this actually probably would be kick-ass now. In 1991... not so much.)

I told the others about that and then asked K’s husband if he could drop us off at the corner, rather than directly in front of the house. Everyone laughed.

“I’m not even joking,” I said. For some reason, the idea of having a bunch of thirty to forty-year-olds being dropped off in an SUV in front of a dilapidated punk-rock house in New Brunswick was just too much for me to handle. I wanted to be under the radar.

The house was a typical New Brunswick punk rock house - it was old as shit, decorated with crazy and questionable items and had approximately thirty bikes locked up on a bike rack in the living room and had the most terrifying bathroom EVER. Basically, it reminded me of the house I lived in when I was in my twenties in New Brunswick. People milled around outside - mostly kids in their teens and early twenties. Once we were there, we kind of lurked around the backyard for awhile and drank a few beers we had brought with us and I took some nips off my flask and marveled at the fact that teenagers STILL drink Mad Dog 20/20, which has to be (to me) the most disgusting puke-inducing malt beverage known to mankind.

Once the show started, we headed inside and made our way to the basement. And that’s when I realized there is a huge difference between teenage JJ attending a basement show and adult JJ attending a basement show.

 Ummmmmm.... whose idea was this again?

Teen JJ's thought process while attending a basement show (circa early nineties) Holy fuck, this is amazing!! I’m like two inches away from the band. Wow, there are a ton of people here! This is going to be a great fucking show!! I’m so excited to be here and this is the best thing EVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!! I really hope they play my favorite song because I'm pretty sure there is nothing better in the whole entire world than this, right here, right now. I'm so happy being down here and listening to music I'm about to shit happiness and rainbows ALL OVER.

Adult JJ's thought process while attending a basement show (circa now, bitches) – OHMYFUCKINGGODWE’REGOINGTODIE. Were basements always this small? It’s pitch fucking black! I’m going to fall down the stairs, I just know it. There are like fifty kids crammed in this little space!! That’s totally a fire hazard. We’re going to burn down here and I’m going to have to be identified by my dental records and my mother is going to wonder why the hell I was down here with a bunch of teenagers in the first place instead of doing adult things like getting drunk at home and watching movies. Where are the exits? HOLY SHIT THEY’RE CLOSING THE BILCO DOORS!!! Man, it’s fucking hot down here. Is that exposed wiring on the ceiling? Has this house passed code? OMG, is this house actually condemned? What the fuck is that stench? I can’t see shit. OW!!! Low ceiling, low ceiling! That’s gonna leave a mark. Ewww, super sweaty guy just brushed up against me. This is definitely a fire hazard. Is someone smoking weed? Jeezus crispies where is my flask. I need whiskey. Holy shit, that kid looks like she’s twelve… OH MAH GAHD. I’m old enough to be her mother!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Dude, what stinks down here?? Where’s my whiskey? I NEED MY WHISKEY. 

What's that? You can't see anything? Yeah, neither could I. 

I have to admit that there was a brief moment when I actually considered saying fuck it and getting the fuck out of dodge but in the end I stayed and it was awesome. After the first few minutes (and multiple pulls from my flask) it stopped bothering me that I was packed like a profusely-sweating sardine in a questionably-safe basement with a bunch of people I could have theoretically mothered without having to get knocked up at a super-young age.

There is a big difference between going to a huge stadium or theater and finding your seat in nosebleed land to watch a band and standing in some random stranger’s basement with your face pressed into someone’s sweaty fucking back to watch a band. As I listened to the bands play, I realized what the difference is – you’re not just a mere spectator at a basement show. You’re a part of it. It’s just you and the band. There isn't any pretense or stupid bullshit involved. It's truly just about enjoying the music.

 Marissa Paternoster, lead singer of Screaming Females and guitarist extraordinaire. Seriously. And yes, it's a dreadful picture. Did I mention it was pitch dark down there???

And that’s pretty much the coolest thing of all.


  1. Jeeze! Life goes on. We keep getting older. Things change. I'd love to be 21 again - if I could keep all the things I know now. But if I couldn't - I don't know if I would want to go back and do it all over again or not.

    But to just have a little taste like you did? Maybe it makes you appreciate where you are now.

  2. And how did your friend K enjoy her first basement show?

    Adult JJ's inner monologue is what we all would be saying/thinking and now I'm depressed because I realized I'm not a 11 year old boy like I always think I am, in my mind.

    We don't have basement shows in Vegas, but we have alley shows. Not kidding, put a concert on in an alley between 2 run down stores where you normally see prostitutes trying to earn their $5.

    I went to one for a band I loved last year and then realized the only people who listen to them was me and a bunch of 15 year olds. Watched them get dropped off by parents and then when it came to go in and get the pat down/fondle, they separate guys from girls. I grabbed 3 girls and told them "I'm your teacher and we're on a field trip." Got in faster!

    I spent the entire night with my friend in the EMT area making friends and watching kids come in bleeding from mosh pits and dehydration.

  3. Loove the blow by blow description JJ! Yes, I remember having those feelings way back when. I did pretty much the same thing and just decided to enjoy myself. I still do that. I'm still young at heart and people are usually very surprised when they find out my actual age. So glad you enjoyed yourself JJ. Keep doing what you doing too.

  4. Ahhh.those were the days...I had friends who'd pack us in there parents gagarge in a million degree middle of summer and we'd listen to em jam for hours.They actually still play around town . I don't even remember the last time I was in that kind of environment..probably in the late 70's I'm fecking old. There is a couple bars here called The Big Easy and Bubba's that you get that kind of feeling in tho..Glad you had fun..

  5. Even in NYC, now when I go see shows at clubs or venues I am always thinking that the "idea" of going to the show was so much better than actually going to the show. Unless I get really wasted, and then the show is the best. idea. ever. But then the hangover is the worst. experience. ever... sigh. I often find myself longing for the show to end, especially if I've worn heels. I think back at all the shows I used to go to that had like 8 bands on the roster and the first band went on at 11. Now I'm freaking out if it's 9 and the headliner isn't gearing up.
    What a drag it is getting old...

  6. Crap, if you got hit by the low ceiling, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even be able to walk in on my knees *insert joke about being on knees here*

    Glad you had a good time in the long run.. alcohol usually helps with that. I realize a lot of things that I used to love when I was 18-22 aren't as awesome now.. especially living in a college town.

  7. This is the sort of thing I missed during my youth and wish to experience now. But I'm not ready to go quite that authentic -- I'll settle for a tiny club - where they do have fire codes and exit doors.

    Although being crammed into a small record store with maybe 70 people and the 100 Monkeys was pretty cool.

  8. Great description! I haven't been to one of those since the first few years my husband and I started dating. I totally get the feeling old part, because I was almost always the oldest one there because he's 3 years younger than me...and that means there were plenty of people there that were many more years younger than me than that. And what made it worse is that I was a major goody-two-shoes that obviously didn't exactly belong at any of those, yet for some reason my husband didn't see a problem. Guess that's why everyone likes him...he doesn't judge anyone. Somehow he amazingly fits in everywhere. I mean, he openly likes cuddling with kitties and gardening, has a "judgment day" skull tattoo and gauge earrings, and yet occasionally listens to rap music, drinks homemade beer and wine, and only buys clothes from aeropostale. WTF? Ha!

    BTW, I just have to say I was looking at the "best of" posts because I've missed some. That damn "We make babies with R-Pattz" post was f'n hilarious. I had tears streaming and I feel sick to my stomach from laughing so hard. Thank you.

  9. I was starting to think I was the only one to notice the "OW!!! Low ceiling, low ceiling!" comment. I was wondering the same thing, @Jaymes. How in the FUCK does JJ find a midget-height basement? And yes, get on your pretty knees, cutie. You look so much better with something in your mouth ;)

    So...Here's the thing. I have never heard of such a thing as a basement show (outside of shitty bands my friends made in high school), and I'm super jealous of your punk rock heart. Sounds like the kind of mischief I could get myself into, though! If only I could do it all over.

    Great internal monologue.

  10. Oh and P.S. Basements ALWAYS make me think of 'Blair Witch Project'...so there.

  11. Isn't it scary how we change? And how did we go from being so carefree, to noticing and worrying about exposed wiring? What happened there? Why does growing up involve becoming a fucking paranoid bore?

    Loved the comparison between teenage and contemporary JJ.

    Oh, and yeah, how low was that ceiling if YOU banged your head, lol?

  12. Did anyone see that How I Met Your Mother - I'm Too Old for This Shit episode? It was one of my favorites and this post reminded me of it.

    JJ, I give you props for going. We didn't have basement shows in Nebraska (where I grew up), but some of the venues I used to go to were pretty sketchy. There was this one I remember that was underground and had cages all around the floor where people could hang out, dance, smoke pot, etc. - back then I thought that was awesome, now if I rolled into a place like that I would probably die in some OCD panic attack or think it was run by serial killers.

  13. @Rikki_DD - she actually liked it. And it never occurred to me that not everyone in the world actually has a basement. Also? An alley show sounds mildly terrifying.

    @IGiveUp - It's funny, but now that I did it, I don't think it would be a big deal to do it again. I'm kind of looking forward to the next one I go to, lol.

    @Jaymes805 & LindsayRae - The stairs were really fucking narrow and for some reason the ceiling was super super low right at the bottom. I was looking down trying not to fall and when I looked up, smacked my fucking head into the ceiling. If you enlarge the one picture, you can actually see the guy's head is higher than the pipe behind him.

    @Jelena - It IS scary. And a little depressing, lol.

  14. @JJ. I went to a club/bar the other night that I used to go to all the time to see shows when I was younger. I already hate the place from the last time I went, but decided to give it one more try. It was hot as fuck. People were crammed in there. I kept thinking the same goddamn thing "This place is a fire hazard!". You are totally not alone! And I am never going back there. I am perfectly comfortable knowing that I am more at home at the shows with the 40 and 50 year old's (even though I'm 34)...

  15. You saw Bouncing Souls at a basement show.... Lucky bitch. :)

  16. MyHeartGoesPitterPattinsonJune 15, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    I was just thinking the other day how my criteria for a concert went from "will there be alcohol?" to "if I drink alcohol will I have to stand in line for the bathroom for an eternity?" and "What is the condition of said bathrooms?" Actually that's my criteria for everything. Concerts. Mardi Gras. Bars. Weddings. My neighbor's bbq. I guess I'm okay as long as alcohol is still part of that equation somewhere. Right? Shit.

    And, JJ, I give you props for even going down basement stairs in the dark after your last lost battle with your own basement stairs.

  17. HOLY SHIT!! I will be turning 30 at the end of this year & I have been slowly starting to notice these types of things. Just a couple of weeks ago I went to a Rodeo that I have been going to since before I was 21. I kept staring at all the people thinking "You look like you're in High school. Did the beer garden security check your ID??" LOL! I still think of myself as 21!! I just kept drinking my Malibu & pineapple juice out of the "Gatorade" bottle & then I stopped noiticing...well I didn't pay attention to anything anymore. LOL!

  18. There is nothing like being right on top of the band in a mosh pit, and is one of the many reasons I have enjoyed the 100 Monkeys shows at the cool Hollywood clubs like the Roxy and the Viper Room. Granted, it's a step way up from someone's basement, but it's also a far cry from a dignified venue like *gag* Staples Center or the Arrowhead Pond. Who wants to pay $100+ (stupid Ticketmaster and their fees) for seats way up at the top where you can't hear or see the band?? And you might have to SIT the entire time?! Not me!!

    Sigh, those little clubs remind me of my punk rock days in condemed Baltimore hotel basements, wearing a dog collar and stilletos. Yup.

  19. Cool.. The music is all that matter.. Doesn't matter how old you are :)

  20. I went to my first basement show when I was way out of my teens and I'll admit I pretty muck spent the entire time I was there waiting for the fire marshall to show up and bust down the door or something. I just don't have the constitution for this kind of thing - lol...

  21. I've never actually been to a basement show before, but my father was a studio musician and your right, JJ! There's nothing like being in the music, the spontaneous moment of being part of it. Growing up it instilled a love of music. It's like air to me.


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