Parlor City Punk!  

My friend Phil has started a Tumblr about shows in Binghamton, NY.  He’s interested in preserving the photos, flyers, stories, and memories of the Binghamton scene, past and present.  It’s a fine way to keep a running online archive of the communities we’re building face-to-face.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired to start one for your town?

Below is Phil’s first post.  Swing on by Parlor City Punk, or even better, submit something!

 

parlorcitypunk:

So here it goes…

Welcome to PARLOR CITY PUNK!
Why this blog? I guess I’ll start with the last show I went to/played in Binghamton. There wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary about it. It was just awesome…

image

Last Saturday, Andrew from dead kat haus at 4 edwards (fmk Blot spot)…

As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t posted anything in a loooong time.  Some of you have been asking about what happened to the blog, and the short answer is that submissions dried up awhile ago.  I’ll write up a post with some final thoughts soon.  In the meantime, I want to direct all of you to an awesome online zine about house shows called…well, HouseShowsZine.  It’s run by a very nice guy named David who has loaded the site with reviews, interviews, scene profiles, and links to a ton of other stuff.  It is much more comprehensive than anything that I did with this blog.  He recently put out a call for essays about house shows, and I encourage you to write something for his zine (especially if you were planning on writing something for this blog and never got around to it).  If I posted an essay of yours here and you are interested in having it reposted on David’s blog, you can just contact him and submit it, since I do not intend for the essays here to be exclusive to this site.  You can contact David here for more information.

As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t posted anything in a loooong time.  Some of you have been asking about what happened to the blog, and the short answer is that submissions dried up awhile ago.  I’ll write up a post with some final thoughts soon.  In the meantime, I want to direct all of you to an awesome online zine about house shows called…well, HouseShowsZine.  It’s run by a very nice guy named David who has loaded the site with reviews, interviews, scene profiles, and links to a ton of other stuff.  It is much more comprehensive than anything that I did with this blog.  He recently put out a call for essays about house shows, and I encourage you to write something for his zine (especially if you were planning on writing something for this blog and never got around to it).  If I posted an essay of yours here and you are interested in having it reposted on David’s blog, you can just contact him and submit it, since I do not intend for the essays here to be exclusive to this site.  You can contact David here for more information.

(Photo by Al Fair, taken outside a house show in Battle Creek, Michigan.)  Today’s story comes from Paul Blest, who provided a song on Volume 1 of the Please Don’t… compilation.  "5.8.11"by Paul BlestThis never gets easier and I always feel alone.I’m about twenty minutes away from my house in a part of southeastern PA that runs parallel to the Brandywine, in a neighborhood way too nice for a bunch of touring punk bands, with a family and group of friends that is entirely too warmhearted and welcoming to a shithead like me from Delaware. And yet that awkwardness is still there, the kind that Ari Katz sings about in one of my favorite songs and the kind that never leaves me until I’ve finished my set; the feeling of not knowing many familiar faces and sharing something entirely unknown with themIt’s Mother’s Day, and I feel like an asshole because I’m spending my Mother’s Day with a bunch of kids who I admittedly do not know very well. At one point, my mom condescendingly asks if I’m getting paid to play this show. I tell her no, that there’s two touring bands, I live twenty minutes away, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I asked for a bunch of money to play a local show. She doesn’t understand why I play nearly every show for free. I don’t entirely understand  either, but I’ve never questioned it. I do understand, though, why most parents don’t understand DIY.There’s a band from New Jersey playing that I’ve heard a few times and I like a good amount. I talk to them for a few minutes about the scene that I just entered an hour or so before they did.  They tell me they’re from central New Jersey, and that this was supposed to be a weekend for them but the show on Friday fell through, so now it’s just a show in New Jersey and this one. I can relate. Last summer I booked a two week long tour and then had two touring partners bail on me and I had to reduce it to a weekend, and then one of those shows got canceled. So it goes.I recognize a kid there who showed up to a house show I did last month for a band from Connecticut. Unfortunately they got stuck in traffic, and instead of seeing one of his favorite bands, he saw a joke cover band called Fuckin’ Stop and was probably weirded out about the whole experience. I think about how pissed I would be if that’s what I saw instead of one of my favorite bands at 16 or 17 years old, and I get a little frustrated even thinking about it. Then again, a Black Sabbath-blink-182 medley might be enough to warm the iciest of hearts. Who knows.Some of my friends from Massachusetts, a band called the Fake Boys who hopped on the show last minute are there. I consider them friends because we sometimes talk on Facebook and, less often, through text messaging and emails, but this is the second time I’ve ever hung out with them in person in my life. The singer/guitarist, Jim, was in a hardcore band from Massachussetts before starting the Fake Boys, and we were supposed to tour this summer until my lack of money and Jim’s lack of time got in the way of a two week long run of the East Coast. I talk to Ryan, the drummer, about what they’ve been up to recently, and he tells me that between touring with the Fake Boys and filling in on drums for Off With Their Heads along with Jim as a guitarist, he’s been home a total of two weeks over the past seven months. I’m floored, but I can understand.I met the kid who set up the show, Mark, at a show we played together in New Hampshire last month. He’s in one of my favorite bands right now, a band that just signed to a record label that nearly everyone I know grew up loving, and a band that’s about to start a six week tour of the continental United States. Mark, Pat, and Dos are all kids my age who have already spent years in this scene, have helped out touring bands, have opened up countless local and semi-local shows, and have a staunch reputation as incredibly nice guys. When I stop to think about this, I realize that there’s few things in life where you are rewarded for not being a scumbag. Maybe it’s the fact that they just put out what’s shaping up to be my favorite record released over the past few years, but I’d like to think it’s got just as much to do with supporting something you love no matter how daunting it may seem.I found out when I first got to the house that Mimi, the girl whose house Mark told me I was playing, is the sister of a kid I met a few years ago at a show I booked in a barn in Wilmington. I talked with her mom earlier about people we knew in common, and a kid who broke a microphone in the midst of attempting to demonstrate his hate edge at the aforementioned comes up in the conversation. I don’t tell her this, but every time I think about this kid I realize why I don’t ever go to shows in my home state anymore.Mimi is in the headlining local punk band, and when they launch into their first song kids go wild and start piling on and screaming the words she wrote, arms around each other, like it’s the last time they’ll ever get to do it. I don’t know the band that well, but I can’t imagine they’ve been together for more than a year, but that doesn’t matter. They launch through probably every song they’ve ever written that they like, plus probably a few they don’t like, and damn near the entire room apart from me knows every single word.When it comes time for me to play, I hook on my guitar, but the strap isn’t on right since it’s been so long that I’ve taken it off that I actually forget how to do it entirely. When I finally get it right with the help of Eric from Brickmower, I snap an E string. Pat and Mark joke with me about wasting time and bad first impressions, but to me, it isn’t a joke. My intense awkwardness around people before I play is starting to show through with exasperated “I hate my life” after breaking the string and repeated sighs when tuning isn’t right.I look up, and see the unfamiliar faces, waiting patiently for me to start, and then I realize that these faces aren’t unfamiliar at all. I may have not met all of these kids, and the ones I have met may not be people I see every day, every week, or even every month or year, but right now, I feel like everyone in this room is a good friend of mine.That’s why punk rock defines my interests, is the reason for most of my relationships with other people, and why it matters so much to me. Sharing something as pure as a sober moment listening to someone express their take on the rawest form of art possible, whether it be yelling accompanied by an acoustic guitar and songs about shitty friends, an anarchist punk band protesting the government, or just a bunch of kids who love Green Day/blink-182/whoever writing shit that happens to them every day, is something that I doubt most of my friends who are lucky enough to be a part of this community have experienced. And if you’ve never experienced it, then you will never understand why I consider people I see once a year friends, why I talk about issues, events, and things that are important to me to a room full of strangers, or why I will go out of my way to never make any money at doing something I love. It’s because when I’m in these basements, garages, and living rooms, it does get easier, and I don’t always feel alone. 

(Photo by Al Fair, taken outside a house show in Battle Creek, Michigan.)  Today’s story comes from Paul Blest, who provided a song on Volume 1 of the Please Don’t… compilation.  

"5.8.11"
by Paul Blest

This never gets easier and I always feel alone.

I’m about twenty minutes away from my house in a part of southeastern PA that runs parallel to the Brandywine, in a neighborhood way too nice for a bunch of touring punk bands, with a family and group of friends that is entirely too warmhearted and welcoming to a shithead like me from Delaware. And yet that awkwardness is still there, the kind that Ari Katz sings about in one of my favorite songs and the kind that never leaves me until I’ve finished my set; the feeling of not knowing many familiar faces and sharing something entirely unknown with them

It’s Mother’s Day, and I feel like an asshole because I’m spending my Mother’s Day with a bunch of kids who I admittedly do not know very well. At one point, my mom condescendingly asks if I’m getting paid to play this show. I tell her no, that there’s two touring bands, I live twenty minutes away, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I asked for a bunch of money to play a local show. She doesn’t understand why I play nearly every show for free. I don’t entirely understand  either, but I’ve never questioned it. I do understand, though, why most parents don’t understand DIY.

There’s a band from New Jersey playing that I’ve heard a few times and I like a good amount. I talk to them for a few minutes about the scene that I just entered an hour or so before they did.  They tell me they’re from central New Jersey, and that this was supposed to be a weekend for them but the show on Friday fell through, so now it’s just a show in New Jersey and this one. I can relate. Last summer I booked a two week long tour and then had two touring partners bail on me and I had to reduce it to a weekend, and then one of those shows got canceled. So it goes.

I recognize a kid there who showed up to a house show I did last month for a band from Connecticut. Unfortunately they got stuck in traffic, and instead of seeing one of his favorite bands, he saw a joke cover band called Fuckin’ Stop and was probably weirded out about the whole experience. I think about how pissed I would be if that’s what I saw instead of one of my favorite bands at 16 or 17 years old, and I get a little frustrated even thinking about it. Then again, a Black Sabbath-blink-182 medley might be enough to warm the iciest of hearts. Who knows.

Some of my friends from Massachusetts, a band called the Fake Boys who hopped on the show last minute are there. I consider them friends because we sometimes talk on Facebook and, less often, through text messaging and emails, but this is the second time I’ve ever hung out with them in person in my life. The singer/guitarist, Jim, was in a hardcore band from Massachussetts before starting the Fake Boys, and we were supposed to tour this summer until my lack of money and Jim’s lack of time got in the way of a two week long run of the East Coast. I talk to Ryan, the drummer, about what they’ve been up to recently, and he tells me that between touring with the Fake Boys and filling in on drums for Off With Their Heads along with Jim as a guitarist, he’s been home a total of two weeks over the past seven months. I’m floored, but I can understand.

I met the kid who set up the show, Mark, at a show we played together in New Hampshire last month. He’s in one of my favorite bands right now, a band that just signed to a record label that nearly everyone I know grew up loving, and a band that’s about to start a six week tour of the continental United States. Mark, Pat, and Dos are all kids my age who have already spent years in this scene, have helped out touring bands, have opened up countless local and semi-local shows, and have a staunch reputation as incredibly nice guys. When I stop to think about this, I realize that there’s few things in life where you are rewarded for not being a scumbag. Maybe it’s the fact that they just put out what’s shaping up to be my favorite record released over the past few years, but I’d like to think it’s got just as much to do with supporting something you love no matter how daunting it may seem.

I found out when I first got to the house that Mimi, the girl whose house Mark told me I was playing, is the sister of a kid I met a few years ago at a show I booked in a barn in Wilmington. I talked with her mom earlier about people we knew in common, and a kid who broke a microphone in the midst of attempting to demonstrate his hate edge at the aforementioned comes up in the conversation. I don’t tell her this, but every time I think about this kid I realize why I don’t ever go to shows in my home state anymore.

Mimi is in the headlining local punk band, and when they launch into their first song kids go wild and start piling on and screaming the words she wrote, arms around each other, like it’s the last time they’ll ever get to do it. I don’t know the band that well, but I can’t imagine they’ve been together for more than a year, but that doesn’t matter. They launch through probably every song they’ve ever written that they like, plus probably a few they don’t like, and damn near the entire room apart from me knows every single word.

When it comes time for me to play, I hook on my guitar, but the strap isn’t on right since it’s been so long that I’ve taken it off that I actually forget how to do it entirely. When I finally get it right with the help of Eric from Brickmower, I snap an E string. Pat and Mark joke with me about wasting time and bad first impressions, but to me, it isn’t a joke. My intense awkwardness around people before I play is starting to show through with exasperated “I hate my life” after breaking the string and repeated sighs when tuning isn’t right.

I look up, and see the unfamiliar faces, waiting patiently for me to start, and then I realize that these faces aren’t unfamiliar at all. I may have not met all of these kids, and the ones I have met may not be people I see every day, every week, or even every month or year, but right now, I feel like everyone in this room is a good friend of mine.

That’s why punk rock defines my interests, is the reason for most of my relationships with other people, and why it matters so much to me. Sharing something as pure as a sober moment listening to someone express their take on the rawest form of art possible, whether it be yelling accompanied by an acoustic guitar and songs about shitty friends, an anarchist punk band protesting the government, or just a bunch of kids who love Green Day/blink-182/whoever writing shit that happens to them every day, is something that I doubt most of my friends who are lucky enough to be a part of this community have experienced. And if you’ve never experienced it, then you will never understand why I consider people I see once a year friends, why I talk about issues, events, and things that are important to me to a room full of strangers, or why I will go out of my way to never make any money at doing something I love. It’s because when I’m in these basements, garages, and living rooms, it does get easier, and I don’t always feel alone.
 

Photo of RVIVR @ Chateau Noir in Vancouver, BC.  Taken by Jakob Knudsen.  More of Jakob’s pics here.I’ve been thinking a lot about the last post.  First of all, I want to thank all of you who took the time to read Andy’s story about Mitch and those of you who chose to reblog it.  I noticed something that many rebloggers had in common with my intro to the essay: we were virtually begging people to take the time to read it.  Naturally, we begged because Andy’s essay was so moving.  But we also begged because this is the Internet.  I remember when I used to pick up a magazine and see pictures of amazing artwork.  I would think about that artwork for the rest of the day, marveling at the skill and imagination behind it.  But on the Internet…I see the work of at least ten artists that blow my mind every day.  I see pictures so striking that years ago they would’ve held my attention for a full minute, but now I linger on them for no more than a second.  I have access to every amazing idea and notion out there, and it’s all coming in so fast that I don’t have time to absorb how truly amazing it is because there’s another amazing thing one click away so I keep clicking and none of it really hangs out in my mind and I keep clicking and it all becomes visual noise and none of it actually instills any sort of wonder in me anymore because there’s always something else.  There’s always something else.  There’s always something else…So I begged.  And so did many of you.  Because we knew this was special, but it was also long by Internet standards, and we needed to give it some real emphasis for people to commit the time to it.  Our begging worked, and I saw how many “notes” and “likes” and “reblogs” the essay got and I was pleased that this statistic somehow meant that people cared and that it mattered, that the Internet was something more than just a symptom of a cultural existential crisis, it was connecting people in a real way.  But still…was it?The story of Mitch’s death is intensely heartbreaking.  There is no denying that.  But his story, and all the stories on this blog, and all the stories and pictures and videos worth consuming are just documents of things that happened without the Internet.  And there’s so much compelling stuff on the Internet that it’s possible to live vicariously through all of it and never actually live.  And then life gets inverted, and instead of using the Internet to tell our stories, the Internet becomes our story.  And is there anything more boring than conversations about things that “happened” on the internet?  Our lives are out there to be lived.  I’m arguably wasting half an hour of mine with this little screed.  And you’re wasting five minutes of yours reading this.  It’s summertime.  Get the hell off the computer and do something that will make a good enough story that you it takes more than 140 characters to tell it.  Go to a show, go swimming, ride your bike, make some potato salad.  If we’ve learned anything from Mitch’s story, it’s that even the kindest and most passionate of us don’t have a lot of time.  So make sure this isn’t the only place you’re spending it.

Photo of RVIVR @ Chateau Noir in Vancouver, BC.  Taken by Jakob Knudsen.  More of Jakob’s pics here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last post.  First of all, I want to thank all of you who took the time to read Andy’s story about Mitch and those of you who chose to reblog it.  I noticed something that many rebloggers had in common with my intro to the essay: we were virtually begging people to take the time to read it.  Naturally, we begged because Andy’s essay was so moving.  But we also begged because this is the Internet.  

I remember when I used to pick up a magazine and see pictures of amazing artwork.  I would think about that artwork for the rest of the day, marveling at the skill and imagination behind it.  But on the Internet…I see the work of at least ten artists that blow my mind every day.  I see pictures so striking that years ago they would’ve held my attention for a full minute, but now I linger on them for no more than a second.  I have access to every amazing idea and notion out there, and it’s all coming in so fast that I don’t have time to absorb how truly amazing it is because there’s another amazing thing one click away so I keep clicking and none of it really hangs out in my mind and I keep clicking and it all becomes visual noise and none of it actually instills any sort of wonder in me anymore because there’s always something else.  There’s always something else.  There’s always something else…

So I begged.  And so did many of you.  Because we knew this was special, but it was also long by Internet standards, and we needed to give it some real emphasis for people to commit the time to it.  Our begging worked, and I saw how many “notes” and “likes” and “reblogs” the essay got and I was pleased that this statistic somehow meant that people cared and that it mattered, that the Internet was something more than just a symptom of a cultural existential crisis, it was connecting people in a real way.  But still…was it?

The story of Mitch’s death is intensely heartbreaking.  There is no denying that.  But his story, and all the stories on this blog, and all the stories and pictures and videos worth consuming are just documents of things that happened without the Internet.  And there’s so much compelling stuff on the Internet that it’s possible to live vicariously through all of it and never actually live.  And then life gets inverted, and instead of using the Internet to tell our stories, the Internet becomes our story.  And is there anything more boring than conversations about things that “happened” on the internet?  

Our lives are out there to be lived.  I’m arguably wasting half an hour of mine with this little screed.  And you’re wasting five minutes of yours reading this.  It’s summertime.  Get the hell off the computer and do something that will make a good enough story that you it takes more than 140 characters to tell it.  Go to a show, go swimming, ride your bike, make some potato salad.  If we’ve learned anything from Mitch’s story, it’s that even the kindest and most passionate of us don’t have a lot of time.  So make sure this isn’t the only place you’re spending it.

 
Today’s story is difficult to read because of its tragic subject matter.  Andy Tabar tells the story of the Cookie Jar, a house in New Haven, CT, and also tells how his housemate, Mitch (pictured above), was shot and killed in their home.  I urge you to read it because it’s one of the most important, well-written, and thoughtful submissions I’ve received so far.  Andy’s insight on building community and understanding tragedy is something that we all can learn from.  I hope you’ll take the time to read all of it.
For Mitchellby Andy TabarReprinted from the Community Records website.It’s hard to even know where to start. Right now it’s hard to breathe, let alone collect all my thoughts into some cohesive, poignant essay. But writing this is all I’ve been able to think about for the past few days, as I begin to process what actually happened and start to try and move forward. I’m hoping it will help to cement and document my feelings at the current time as well as address a lot of the questions and concerns that have been floating around. I can’t make sense of it, because I don’t think that there is any sense to make of it, at least at this point. Maybe someday down the line the point of it all will dawn on me, but as this juncture I can’t see that ever happening.
So where to start? I guess the only place to start, really, is why I’m even writing this to begin with. Four of us lived in our house on Bassett Street, myself, Mitch, Emily and Kaylee. We were having a family dinner with Chelsea and Isaac, two friends who were visiting from Maine. Everyone had finished, Kaylee had gone upstairs and the rest of us were sitting around talking at the dinner table when there was a knock at the door. It wasn’t a particularly menacing knock, and the only thing that really stood out at the time was that it was nearly 10 o’clock at night. I looked at Emily, and she put her finger to her nose signaling, “nose goes.” I followed suit, and Mitch was left to answer the door. Isaac, being the fine upstanding man that he is, decided to accompany Mitch to investigate the situation. I wasn’t really paying attention to Mitch answering the door, and it didn’t catch my attention until I saw Isaac jump back, wedging himself between the door and the wall, a temporary hiding spot. My initial thought was, “It must be a cop.” This was the only thing I could think of that would make a young punk react so swiftly and with such a look of worry. Soon I realized that there was a man with a gun standing in the doorway. He had a dark hood up over his head, and he was holding his shirt pulled up over his nose. I looked at Chelsea and whispered, “He has a gun,” we all put our hands in view.I didn’t hear the man say anything until Ruby approached him and he told us to keep the dog back. Ruby, as wonderful as she is, has never attacked anyone and would make a lousy guard dog; in fact, we are pretty sure that when our house was robbed a week earlier, she was just excited to have some company. But we still called her over to get her out of harm’s way. Mitch and Isaac were then instructed to step back and sit on the couch; they followed the command promptly. At the time all I could think of was that in a few seconds I would have to inform the man that he had missed the boat because everything of value had already been taken from us a week ago. I was looking at Chelsea and Emily and thinking, “How can I make sure no one gets hurt? How am I supposed to react in this situation? Do what the guy says and everything will be okay, right?” The very last thing that I was thinking was, “These next few moments are going to define the rest of my life. I have ten seconds to remember everything I possibly can about this guy because that is going to be the only thing that the police will have to go on.” Mitch calmly and steadily issued what would ultimately become his final words: “Dude, just put the gun down.” He didn’t yell, he wasn’t aggressive and didn’t make any movements. His utterance had a tone that, to me, signaled to the man that we were willing to do whatever he wanted.
A shot was fired. I can’t remember if I wasn’t looking at the guy at the time of the shot, or if I have just blocked it out completely. I remember hearing the noise of the gun. I remember thinking, “That was a warning shot,” then I heard someone yelling, “No, no, no,” and I snapped back to reality. The man was gone. I jumped up and screamed, “Was someone shot?!” No one answered me. What the fuck do I do? “Was someone shot?!” I repeated. Still no answer. Mitch was on the ground, and Emily was at his head. I asked again if he was shot. I thought maybe he was just in shock and fainted. She finally said, “Yes.” I looked around thinking, “What the fuck do we do?” The door was still open, and I was holding my phone to dial 911. I realized the guy could come back, so I ducked down behind the side of the couch as best I could and screamed several times for someone to close the door. Finally, Isaac closed the door. I don’t know why I didn’t just close it myself; perhaps I was just scared that the guy might be waiting outside. I looked at my phone again and dialed 911, but before I could press send Kaylee was downstairs yelling our address into the phone: “29 Bassett Street, New Haven. Was someone shot? Yes, someone has been shot, send an ambulance” I looked down at Mitch and didn’t see any blood. We lifted up his shirt and saw a little blood in his belly button, and I thought how weird it was that he was shot in such a precise area, but no, that wasn’t the wound. We lifted his shirt up more and saw a small hole in the middle of his chest, it looked like it went straight through his heart. There was nothing accidental about this wound. I thought, “There still isn’t that much blood; do we put pressure on it?” Emily kept telling Mitch that he was awake, he was okay, help was on the way, he didn’t do anything wrong and he didn’t deserve it. I’m still so proud of Emily for how well she reacted and handled everything in those few minutes. I wish I were stronger at that moment, but all I could do was tear up and breathe heavy before looking at Chelsea and Isaac, thinking, “What the fuck.” I was thinking that the ambulance would be there soon and Mitch would be okay. I thought, “He is still breathing, he is alive. What if this is the last time I get to say something to him while he is alive? What do I say?”“I love you man,” was the only collection of words I could push out. I’m pretty sure I only said it once. I wish I told him that he is my best friend, and he needs to fight and make it through this, to stay awake. I wanted so badly for him to reply to me, but his breathing was strenuous and the slight gargling noise let me know that his lungs were filling up with blood.Soon there was another knock at the door, and I immediately thought that the intruder had returned to kill the rest of us. “Don’t open the door”, I instructed, but soon we realized that it must be the police. Another knock, “Police”. We opened the door and within minutes our house was swarming with cops, firefighters and paramedics; Mitch was rushed off in an ambulance, and the last thing I heard anyone say about him is that he is breathing on his own, a fact that I would hold on to for the next few hours as we are rushed off in separate cop cars and questioned individually at the police station. I completely understand why they had to keep us separate, but not being able to be with everyone for the three hours immediately following the shooting was torture. From the time that we heard the knock on the door to the time that the man was gone was no more than thirty seconds, probably only twenty seconds. It’s really hard to imagine that events in such a short time frame could drastically alter the rest of my life. But here I am, and nothing will ever be the same.I first met Mitch in 2004 when my band made its first trip to the West Coast. When you’re young, unsigned and touring in a new area for the first time, you are pretty much relying on the kindness of strangers for your survival. I had reached out to a lot of people through email, but a very small amount ever responded, and all the shows we got in California were ultimately from the help of one guy in a punk band. It was Mitch who reached out to me when he found out we were heading to his state. He wanted to book shows for us and help us out any way he could. Online I sort of brushed him off as an overzealous young kid, not thinking he would be able to help us very much and figuring the other guy I was working with was more experienced and much more reliable. But Mitch showed up to the first show we played, in San Diego at the Che Café, and eagerly introduced himself. At the time he still had his huge red hair (for those that were lucky enough to see his driver’s license photo, the one where his hair reaches the outer limits of the frame, that’s the hair I’m talking about) and was about the wackiest person we had met all tour. His glasses made his eyes comically large and it gave everything he said a sense of urgency. We would always joke, telling him to calm down after anything he said for a little while. Over the course of the next few days Mitch helped us out with places to stay, showed us around town, set up beach party bonfires and generally made sure we had a good time. We stayed in contact and over the next few years he was our go-to guy in California. Eventually he would start touring with us, running the merch table, playing trombone (poorly) on a song or two and even doing guest vocals.Though I feel a lot of people might make the same claim, Mitch quickly became my best friend. When we had a room open up at our house in New Haven, it didn’t take much convincing for him to move out here. From that point onward he became such an important part of my life. He was just such a great friend to me. I could go on and on about the impact he had and great things Mitch did for me and for others but that would at least triple the length of this writing. I think that when anyone dies, people start to throw around hyperbole and superlatives to talk the person much more than they ever would when they were alive. But I can say without a doubt that everything everyone has been saying regarding Mitch’s unmatched positivity, spirit, generosity and kindness is 100% true. That doesn’t mean that Mitch was perfect; not by any stretch of the imagination. But in his imperfections I find everything that makes him such a memorable and wonderful person to be friends with. Over the past few years, Mitch became someone so special to me because we were able to grow with each other, make mistakes together, learn from each other. No matter how a big a misstep I might have made in my life, he was always there to encourage me to keep my head up and keep looking forward, and I was more than happy to return the favor. Though it may seem incredibly optimistic of me, I’d like to think that most people are always striving to become a better person, more effective at being the person they would like to be. I would like to think of myself in that manner; I know I’ve made some bad choices in my life, but I’m trying my best to learn from them and incorporate those lessons into my actions for the next day. It isn’t easy to do this, but living with Mitch made it easier. We both wanted similar things out of life. We wanted to grow and become better vehicles of change, to be the type of people who we wished everyone would strive to be. I really felt that in the last four months or so of his life, Mitch was really getting a handle on that concept. He was finally starting to figure out exactly what he wanted out of life, how to make himself happy, as well as those around him. It hurts so much to think about how that trajectory has been cut short. I was so excited to watch Mitch grow and figure his life out. But that has been taken from me, from us.But so much more has been taken from us than just an incredible person. On the night of March 24th I also lost my sense of security. While I once lived in a world where it seemed like everything would work out one way or another and ultimately everything would be ok, I now live in a world where violent crime is a very real possibility. I am more suspicious of everyone who passes on the street, every car that slows dow. I don’t feel as safe in my parent’s home, where I am currently staying, as I used to. On a recent road trip to New Orleans, I slept in my sleeping bag on the pavement outside of the car, something that I have done many times before while on tour and always felt fine, but this time I felt terrified at every noise I heard, every voice yelling in the distance at the gas pumps seemed like they would be soon heading towards me. The sound of branches being trimmed from the giant trees outside of my parent’s house and hitting the ground sounded like gunshots and they made me wince every time they landed. Last night I had a dream about being robbed. I’m hoping with time that all of this will fade away.We also lost our house, our home. How could we possibly stay in a place that would trigger such horrible memories? We had all of our belongings out of there within four days. A friend said to me, “I’ll bet you’re happy to get out of there,” and yes, I was relieved to get out of a place where such a horrible thing had happened to my best friend, but I could never be happy about leaving that house. We spent nearly a year looking for the perfect place to live; we found it on Bassett Street. We wanted a house where we could have bands play in our basement. We wanted space for vegan potlucks and bicycle repairs, for family dinners and art projects, for gardening and composting. We wanted a place where our friends were always welcome, where we had enough space to sleep several touring bands, where we could make them breakfast in the morning. A place for Ruby to run around in the backyard, a place where we could grow and create the positive nurturing environment we needed. We had found it. It was ours, for only a few months, but it was ours.When we moved in, we thought the basement had a dirt floor. It turns out that wasn’t the case as much as it had an inch of dirt on the floor. I bought a snow shovel and borrowed a shop-vac to get rid of the dirt. I inhaled so much dust that I got sick. We used quickrete to fill in the cracks and holes of the floor, proudly writing, “The Cookie Jar”, our moniker for the house that we would use on fliers for shows, into one of the larger holes we filled in. We boarded up the basement windows with layers of rolled up blankets, pillows and foam between two pieces of wood, our best attempt at sound proofing the basement. There was only one working electrical outlet, so our friend Kyle rewired the basement and installed new outlets. We set up some red and green lights, some carpets and our PA. This was it, our show space. We could finally have a place to host bands that could be everything we ever wanted in a venue.Any event at The Cookie Jar was set up around a touring band coming through. Most of the time it was a band that we were friends with from previous tour. We started every show with a vegan potluck. Sometimes it was just me doing the cooking, but often friends would bring over food to share. We wanted everyone to eat delicious, nurturing food that was not the result of animal cruelty and violence. We wanted to show everyone how good and filling vegan food can be, everyone was grateful for the meal. All our shows were donation-based; no one had to get turned away due to a lack of money. Midway through shows, one of us would walk around with a jar collecting donations for the touring bands. Everyone was always generous within their ability, and the bands walked away with enough money to cover the travel expenses. All our shows had a strict no drugs and no drinking policy. We wanted people to come for the music, not the party. We wanted everyone there to feel safe and respected.Ultimately what we wanted was to show everyone how good it can be. That we can have music in a place that isn’t trying to sell you anything, isn’t making the music secondary, a place that removed much of the glamour, leaving only pure intentions. That you can feed people and respect people and not demand much money and still have bands walking away saying it was the best show of their tour. We certainly weren’t the first to do this, but we had done it, and everyone that came through loved it, bands and audience members alike. After our first few shows, we had many people telling us how grateful they were that we were doing this, that Connecticut really needed a place like this. There are several punk houses in CT, and they all serve their own crowds and audiences. We felt like we were catering to a different need.Our first show was December 30th and the last one we had was March 20th. In that short time we had started to create a community. We even had a neighbor come over when he heard a hardcore band playing and said he wanted to check it out. It wasn’t what he normally listened to, but he loved it and offered to have us over for dinner sometime. Within an hour of the show ending, he had already brought us over a container of freshly made butternut squash pear soup. It was delicious and in Mitch’s words it “tasted like Christmas.” I felt that this was just the start of the underground music world and the world of Bassett Street starting to co-mingle. Kyle pointed out that with the warm weather coming around, there would be more people out on the street and that those younger kids would hear the music and become curious. Everyone was invited to our shows, and I was excited at the prospect of more neighborhood locals coming to the shows, of showing them an alternative to other venues of music and other means of entertainment, and in turn learning new things from them. But that has been taken from us.We really loved that house. In some of the articles about the incident, one of the many neighbors who were interviewed said they had asked us why we were moving to Bassett Street, and that we told them we didn’t have jobs that paid well enough to make it possible for us to afford a deposit anywhere else. I can’t imagine any of us saying that, as it was flat out untrue; in fact, to move in we had to pay first month’s rent plus a two-month deposit. So, why did we move there? Simply, it was the best house we had looked at. We needed a single family house in order to pull off shows, and this one had the best basement and the most room in the rest of the house for us to live in. Further, it was located near a college, so there was plenty of parking for visitors. The question of why we would live in the area has come up many times, not only from random people commenting on the news stories but from friends and relatives. “Was it a bad neighborhood?” is one of the most asked questions I’ve had to deal with following the incident. I understand that people are trying to make sense of the situation and find a reason why, especially since this just seems like such a senseless tragedy, but I think it’s important for everyone to know that asking us if it was a bad neighborhood seems akin to asking a rape victim what type of clothes she was wearing. They both reek of victim-blaming and seem to suggest that the crime committed could have possibly been brought on by the actions of the victim. I need to say it very plainly: Mitch was not shot because of where he lived, how he lived his life, what he believed in, who he was, or because he answered the door. Mitch was shot because someone shot him. This seems like such an obvious and simplistic statement, but it’s very important for everyone to realize we need to change our mode of thinking when it comes to violent crimes. I know most people’s intentions are pure, but they need to realize how painful it is to deal with this situation while having insinuations that this all could have been avoided had we chosen to live in a “nicer” neighborhood. Crime can and does happen anywhere; yes, certain areas have higher crime rates, but those of us living in the house were completely aware of our surroundings. When asked if it was a bad neighborhood, if I had said yes, would people all of a sudden think “Oh, ok, that’s why, this all makes sense now”? It’s like saying “Well, she was raped, but she was wearing a really short skirt”. No one is ever asking to be the victim of crime, no situation ever excuses or explains why someone becomes the victim of a violent crime.Before moving into the house, I went to the street late at night on several occasions and walked around the block a couple times. I felt safe, and I noticed the beautiful gardens and how nicely some of the neighbors had kept their lawns. We loved our neighbors; the first night that we were there a few of them introduced themselves to us, and over the course of the next few months we got to know several more. Of course, we didn’t know everyone, but those we did, we were quite fond of. One moment that was documented in several papers was the time that Mitch and I were shoveling out our cars from the latest snow storm and upon getting our final car out, we went over and helped a couple of neighbors dig their cars out as well. We were told that no one else had ever offered to help them for free and they couldn’t wait to invite us to some barbecues when the weather got nicer. I felt much more a part of a community living on Bassett Street than I ever did living in “nicer” neighborhoods. I can only imagine that those judging the area we lived in are doing so based more on the color of our neighbors’ skin and their bank accounts than on any true personal interaction with its inhabitants.This doesn’t mean we were so delusional as to not take precautions to protect ourselves and our property. We didn’t leave out doors wide open, we locked up our cars, we took the precautions that any normal person would. So when people ask me, “He just opened the door? Didn’t he try and figure out who was on the other side?” it makes me upset, because I don’t remember if Mitch looked through the peep hole or asked who was there, but I don’t think that it matters either. I can only assume that whoever it was that entered our house that night wasn’t holding his shirt up over his face when he knocked because he realized there was a peep hole, and when asked what he wanted wouldn’t have said, “I would like to shoot someone in the house.” When I heard the knock, I figured it must have been Lewis, the neighbor that brought us the soup, and had been known to drop by unannounced. It wasn’t out of the question for a neighbor to come over and introduce themselves to us. We trusted people; we let them into our home to share experiences with us. What happened to Mitch and what happened to us was something that was absolutely not the result of anything we did or where we chose to live; it was the result of someone with a gun who felt he had no problem with ending the life of another human being.I still love New Haven, and despite what happened I still don’t view it as a war zone or a place to be avoided, but rather a place to be embraced, improved and fixed up. I know that we can only speculate on what “Mitch would want” at this point, but I think that it would be safe to assume that Mitch wouldn’t want his death to result in people fleeing from the city that had become such an important part of his life. I don’t think he would want this incident to make people scared to move into an area where they didn’t “fit in,” demographically speaking. We didn’t move to Bassett Street with some grand plan to integrate and cause world peace, but we did move there because we see all people as equals and we don’t judge anyone by the color of their skin or their socioeconomic status (and to be perfectly honest, I’m sure that most of the people on our street had a higher income level than I did). I want people to keep doing what we were doing, and what we hope to continue doing in the future when we find our footing again.In the past few weeks there has been a lot of love and positive energy directed towards those of us who were most directly affected, and it is truly inspiring and overwhelming. Sometimes everyone’s kindness alone brings me to the verge of tears. Everyone seems to be a little nicer to each other, a little kinder and a little more positive. Unfortunately, I know from past experience that this isn’t going to last. Soon enough life will go back to normal for most people, so I would urge everyone to act on whatever impulse they have right now to start a project or reach out to loved ones. Life is too short to be wasted on bullshit; it is unfortunate that it takes an incident like this to make us truly grasp that fact, but let’s not waste it. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Don’t be scared. It’s going to get easier.If you have any questions or thoughts for Andy, you can e-mail him. 

 

Today’s story is difficult to read because of its tragic subject matter.  Andy Tabar tells the story of the Cookie Jar, a house in New Haven, CT, and also tells how his housemate, Mitch (pictured above), was shot and killed in their home.  I urge you to read it because it’s one of the most important, well-written, and thoughtful submissions I’ve received so far.  Andy’s insight on building community and understanding tragedy is something that we all can learn from.  I hope you’ll take the time to read all of it.



For Mitchell
by Andy Tabar
Reprinted from the Community Records website.

It’s hard to even know where to start. Right now it’s hard to breathe, let alone collect all my thoughts into some cohesive, poignant essay. But writing this is all I’ve been able to think about for the past few days, as I begin to process what actually happened and start to try and move forward. I’m hoping it will help to cement and document my feelings at the current time as well as address a lot of the questions and concerns that have been floating around. I can’t make sense of it, because I don’t think that there is any sense to make of it, at least at this point. Maybe someday down the line the point of it all will dawn on me, but as this juncture I can’t see that ever happening.


So where to start? I guess the only place to start, really, is why I’m even writing this to begin with. Four of us lived in our house on Bassett Street, myself, Mitch, Emily and Kaylee. We were having a family dinner with Chelsea and Isaac, two friends who were visiting from Maine. Everyone had finished, Kaylee had gone upstairs and the rest of us were sitting around talking at the dinner table when there was a knock at the door. It wasn’t a particularly menacing knock, and the only thing that really stood out at the time was that it was nearly 10 o’clock at night. I looked at Emily, and she put her finger to her nose signaling, “nose goes.” I followed suit, and Mitch was left to answer the door. Isaac, being the fine upstanding man that he is, decided to accompany Mitch to investigate the situation. I wasn’t really paying attention to Mitch answering the door, and it didn’t catch my attention until I saw Isaac jump back, wedging himself between the door and the wall, a temporary hiding spot. My initial thought was, “It must be a cop.” This was the only thing I could think of that would make a young punk react so swiftly and with such a look of worry. Soon I realized that there was a man with a gun standing in the doorway. He had a dark hood up over his head, and he was holding his shirt pulled up over his nose. I looked at Chelsea and whispered, “He has a gun,” we all put our hands in view.

I didn’t hear the man say anything until Ruby approached him and he told us to keep the dog back. Ruby, as wonderful as she is, has never attacked anyone and would make a lousy guard dog; in fact, we are pretty sure that when our house was robbed a week earlier, she was just excited to have some company. But we still called her over to get her out of harm’s way. Mitch and Isaac were then instructed to step back and sit on the couch; they followed the command promptly. At the time all I could think of was that in a few seconds I would have to inform the man that he had missed the boat because everything of value had already been taken from us a week ago. I was looking at Chelsea and Emily and thinking, “How can I make sure no one gets hurt? How am I supposed to react in this situation? Do what the guy says and everything will be okay, right?” The very last thing that I was thinking was, “These next few moments are going to define the rest of my life. I have ten seconds to remember everything I possibly can about this guy because that is going to be the only thing that the police will have to go on.” Mitch calmly and steadily issued what would ultimately become his final words: “Dude, just put the gun down.” He didn’t yell, he wasn’t aggressive and didn’t make any movements. His utterance had a tone that, to me, signaled to the man that we were willing to do whatever he wanted.


A shot was fired. I can’t remember if I wasn’t looking at the guy at the time of the shot, or if I have just blocked it out completely. I remember hearing the noise of the gun. I remember thinking, “That was a warning shot,” then I heard someone yelling, “No, no, no,” and I snapped back to reality. The man was gone. I jumped up and screamed, “Was someone shot?!” No one answered me. What the fuck do I do? “Was someone shot?!” I repeated. Still no answer. Mitch was on the ground, and Emily was at his head. I asked again if he was shot. I thought maybe he was just in shock and fainted. She finally said, “Yes.” I looked around thinking, “What the fuck do we do?” The door was still open, and I was holding my phone to dial 911. I realized the guy could come back, so I ducked down behind the side of the couch as best I could and screamed several times for someone to close the door. Finally, Isaac closed the door. I don’t know why I didn’t just close it myself; perhaps I was just scared that the guy might be waiting outside. I looked at my phone again and dialed 911, but before I could press send Kaylee was downstairs yelling our address into the phone: “29 Bassett Street, New Haven. Was someone shot? Yes, someone has been shot, send an ambulance” I looked down at Mitch and didn’t see any blood. We lifted up his shirt and saw a little blood in his belly button, and I thought how weird it was that he was shot in such a precise area, but no, that wasn’t the wound. We lifted his shirt up more and saw a small hole in the middle of his chest, it looked like it went straight through his heart. There was nothing accidental about this wound. I thought, “There still isn’t that much blood; do we put pressure on it?” Emily kept telling Mitch that he was awake, he was okay, help was on the way, he didn’t do anything wrong and he didn’t deserve it. I’m still so proud of Emily for how well she reacted and handled everything in those few minutes. I wish I were stronger at that moment, but all I could do was tear up and breathe heavy before looking at Chelsea and Isaac, thinking, “What the fuck.” I was thinking that the ambulance would be there soon and Mitch would be okay. I thought, “He is still breathing, he is alive. What if this is the last time I get to say something to him while he is alive? What do I say?”

“I love you man,” was the only collection of words I could push out. I’m pretty sure I only said it once. I wish I told him that he is my best friend, and he needs to fight and make it through this, to stay awake. I wanted so badly for him to reply to me, but his breathing was strenuous and the slight gargling noise let me know that his lungs were filling up with blood.

Soon there was another knock at the door, and I immediately thought that the intruder had returned to kill the rest of us. “Don’t open the door”, I instructed, but soon we realized that it must be the police. Another knock, “Police”. We opened the door and within minutes our house was swarming with cops, firefighters and paramedics; Mitch was rushed off in an ambulance, and the last thing I heard anyone say about him is that he is breathing on his own, a fact that I would hold on to for the next few hours as we are rushed off in separate cop cars and questioned individually at the police station. I completely understand why they had to keep us separate, but not being able to be with everyone for the three hours immediately following the shooting was torture. From the time that we heard the knock on the door to the time that the man was gone was no more than thirty seconds, probably only twenty seconds. It’s really hard to imagine that events in such a short time frame could drastically alter the rest of my life. But here I am, and nothing will ever be the same.

I first met Mitch in 2004 when my band made its first trip to the West Coast. When you’re young, unsigned and touring in a new area for the first time, you are pretty much relying on the kindness of strangers for your survival. I had reached out to a lot of people through email, but a very small amount ever responded, and all the shows we got in California were ultimately from the help of one guy in a punk band. It was Mitch who reached out to me when he found out we were heading to his state. He wanted to book shows for us and help us out any way he could. Online I sort of brushed him off as an overzealous young kid, not thinking he would be able to help us very much and figuring the other guy I was working with was more experienced and much more reliable. But Mitch showed up to the first show we played, in San Diego at the Che Café, and eagerly introduced himself. At the time he still had his huge red hair (for those that were lucky enough to see his driver’s license photo, the one where his hair reaches the outer limits of the frame, that’s the hair I’m talking about) and was about the wackiest person we had met all tour. His glasses made his eyes comically large and it gave everything he said a sense of urgency. We would always joke, telling him to calm down after anything he said for a little while. Over the course of the next few days Mitch helped us out with places to stay, showed us around town, set up beach party bonfires and generally made sure we had a good time. We stayed in contact and over the next few years he was our go-to guy in California. Eventually he would start touring with us, running the merch table, playing trombone (poorly) on a song or two and even doing guest vocals.

Though I feel a lot of people might make the same claim, Mitch quickly became my best friend. When we had a room open up at our house in New Haven, it didn’t take much convincing for him to move out here. From that point onward he became such an important part of my life. He was just such a great friend to me. I could go on and on about the impact he had and great things Mitch did for me and for others but that would at least triple the length of this writing. I think that when anyone dies, people start to throw around hyperbole and superlatives to talk the person much more than they ever would when they were alive. But I can say without a doubt that everything everyone has been saying regarding Mitch’s unmatched positivity, spirit, generosity and kindness is 100% true. That doesn’t mean that Mitch was perfect; not by any stretch of the imagination. But in his imperfections I find everything that makes him such a memorable and wonderful person to be friends with. Over the past few years, Mitch became someone so special to me because we were able to grow with each other, make mistakes together, learn from each other. No matter how a big a misstep I might have made in my life, he was always there to encourage me to keep my head up and keep looking forward, and I was more than happy to return the favor. Though it may seem incredibly optimistic of me, I’d like to think that most people are always striving to become a better person, more effective at being the person they would like to be. I would like to think of myself in that manner; I know I’ve made some bad choices in my life, but I’m trying my best to learn from them and incorporate those lessons into my actions for the next day. It isn’t easy to do this, but living with Mitch made it easier. We both wanted similar things out of life. We wanted to grow and become better vehicles of change, to be the type of people who we wished everyone would strive to be. I really felt that in the last four months or so of his life, Mitch was really getting a handle on that concept. He was finally starting to figure out exactly what he wanted out of life, how to make himself happy, as well as those around him. It hurts so much to think about how that trajectory has been cut short. I was so excited to watch Mitch grow and figure his life out. But that has been taken from me, from us.

But so much more has been taken from us than just an incredible person. On the night of March 24th I also lost my sense of security. While I once lived in a world where it seemed like everything would work out one way or another and ultimately everything would be ok, I now live in a world where violent crime is a very real possibility. I am more suspicious of everyone who passes on the street, every car that slows dow. I don’t feel as safe in my parent’s home, where I am currently staying, as I used to. On a recent road trip to New Orleans, I slept in my sleeping bag on the pavement outside of the car, something that I have done many times before while on tour and always felt fine, but this time I felt terrified at every noise I heard, every voice yelling in the distance at the gas pumps seemed like they would be soon heading towards me. The sound of branches being trimmed from the giant trees outside of my parent’s house and hitting the ground sounded like gunshots and they made me wince every time they landed. Last night I had a dream about being robbed. I’m hoping with time that all of this will fade away.

We also lost our house, our home. How could we possibly stay in a place that would trigger such horrible memories? We had all of our belongings out of there within four days. A friend said to me, “I’ll bet you’re happy to get out of there,” and yes, I was relieved to get out of a place where such a horrible thing had happened to my best friend, but I could never be happy about leaving that house. We spent nearly a year looking for the perfect place to live; we found it on Bassett Street. We wanted a house where we could have bands play in our basement. We wanted space for vegan potlucks and bicycle repairs, for family dinners and art projects, for gardening and composting. We wanted a place where our friends were always welcome, where we had enough space to sleep several touring bands, where we could make them breakfast in the morning. A place for Ruby to run around in the backyard, a place where we could grow and create the positive nurturing environment we needed. We had found it. It was ours, for only a few months, but it was ours.

When we moved in, we thought the basement had a dirt floor. It turns out that wasn’t the case as much as it had an inch of dirt on the floor. I bought a snow shovel and borrowed a shop-vac to get rid of the dirt. I inhaled so much dust that I got sick. We used quickrete to fill in the cracks and holes of the floor, proudly writing, “The Cookie Jar”, our moniker for the house that we would use on fliers for shows, into one of the larger holes we filled in. We boarded up the basement windows with layers of rolled up blankets, pillows and foam between two pieces of wood, our best attempt at sound proofing the basement. There was only one working electrical outlet, so our friend Kyle rewired the basement and installed new outlets. We set up some red and green lights, some carpets and our PA. This was it, our show space. We could finally have a place to host bands that could be everything we ever wanted in a venue.

Any event at The Cookie Jar was set up around a touring band coming through. Most of the time it was a band that we were friends with from previous tour. We started every show with a vegan potluck. Sometimes it was just me doing the cooking, but often friends would bring over food to share. We wanted everyone to eat delicious, nurturing food that was not the result of animal cruelty and violence. We wanted to show everyone how good and filling vegan food can be, everyone was grateful for the meal. All our shows were donation-based; no one had to get turned away due to a lack of money. Midway through shows, one of us would walk around with a jar collecting donations for the touring bands. Everyone was always generous within their ability, and the bands walked away with enough money to cover the travel expenses. All our shows had a strict no drugs and no drinking policy. We wanted people to come for the music, not the party. We wanted everyone there to feel safe and respected.

Ultimately what we wanted was to show everyone how good it can be. That we can have music in a place that isn’t trying to sell you anything, isn’t making the music secondary, a place that removed much of the glamour, leaving only pure intentions. That you can feed people and respect people and not demand much money and still have bands walking away saying it was the best show of their tour. We certainly weren’t the first to do this, but we had done it, and everyone that came through loved it, bands and audience members alike. After our first few shows, we had many people telling us how grateful they were that we were doing this, that Connecticut really needed a place like this. There are several punk houses in CT, and they all serve their own crowds and audiences. We felt like we were catering to a different need.

Our first show was December 30th and the last one we had was March 20th. In that short time we had started to create a community. We even had a neighbor come over when he heard a hardcore band playing and said he wanted to check it out. It wasn’t what he normally listened to, but he loved it and offered to have us over for dinner sometime. Within an hour of the show ending, he had already brought us over a container of freshly made butternut squash pear soup. It was delicious and in Mitch’s words it “tasted like Christmas.” I felt that this was just the start of the underground music world and the world of Bassett Street starting to co-mingle. Kyle pointed out that with the warm weather coming around, there would be more people out on the street and that those younger kids would hear the music and become curious. Everyone was invited to our shows, and I was excited at the prospect of more neighborhood locals coming to the shows, of showing them an alternative to other venues of music and other means of entertainment, and in turn learning new things from them. But that has been taken from us.

We really loved that house. In some of the articles about the incident, one of the many neighbors who were interviewed said they had asked us why we were moving to Bassett Street, and that we told them we didn’t have jobs that paid well enough to make it possible for us to afford a deposit anywhere else. I can’t imagine any of us saying that, as it was flat out untrue; in fact, to move in we had to pay first month’s rent plus a two-month deposit. So, why did we move there? Simply, it was the best house we had looked at. We needed a single family house in order to pull off shows, and this one had the best basement and the most room in the rest of the house for us to live in. Further, it was located near a college, so there was plenty of parking for visitors. The question of why we would live in the area has come up many times, not only from random people commenting on the news stories but from friends and relatives. “Was it a bad neighborhood?” is one of the most asked questions I’ve had to deal with following the incident. I understand that people are trying to make sense of the situation and find a reason why, especially since this just seems like such a senseless tragedy, but I think it’s important for everyone to know that asking us if it was a bad neighborhood seems akin to asking a rape victim what type of clothes she was wearing. They both reek of victim-blaming and seem to suggest that the crime committed could have possibly been brought on by the actions of the victim. I need to say it very plainly: Mitch was not shot because of where he lived, how he lived his life, what he believed in, who he was, or because he answered the door. Mitch was shot because someone shot him. This seems like such an obvious and simplistic statement, but it’s very important for everyone to realize we need to change our mode of thinking when it comes to violent crimes. I know most people’s intentions are pure, but they need to realize how painful it is to deal with this situation while having insinuations that this all could have been avoided had we chosen to live in a “nicer” neighborhood. Crime can and does happen anywhere; yes, certain areas have higher crime rates, but those of us living in the house were completely aware of our surroundings. When asked if it was a bad neighborhood, if I had said yes, would people all of a sudden think “Oh, ok, that’s why, this all makes sense now”? It’s like saying “Well, she was raped, but she was wearing a really short skirt”. No one is ever asking to be the victim of crime, no situation ever excuses or explains why someone becomes the victim of a violent crime.

Before moving into the house, I went to the street late at night on several occasions and walked around the block a couple times. I felt safe, and I noticed the beautiful gardens and how nicely some of the neighbors had kept their lawns. We loved our neighbors; the first night that we were there a few of them introduced themselves to us, and over the course of the next few months we got to know several more. Of course, we didn’t know everyone, but those we did, we were quite fond of. One moment that was documented in several papers was the time that Mitch and I were shoveling out our cars from the latest snow storm and upon getting our final car out, we went over and helped a couple of neighbors dig their cars out as well. We were told that no one else had ever offered to help them for free and they couldn’t wait to invite us to some barbecues when the weather got nicer. I felt much more a part of a community living on Bassett Street than I ever did living in “nicer” neighborhoods. I can only imagine that those judging the area we lived in are doing so based more on the color of our neighbors’ skin and their bank accounts than on any true personal interaction with its inhabitants.

This doesn’t mean we were so delusional as to not take precautions to protect ourselves and our property. We didn’t leave out doors wide open, we locked up our cars, we took the precautions that any normal person would. So when people ask me, “He just opened the door? Didn’t he try and figure out who was on the other side?” it makes me upset, because I don’t remember if Mitch looked through the peep hole or asked who was there, but I don’t think that it matters either. I can only assume that whoever it was that entered our house that night wasn’t holding his shirt up over his face when he knocked because he realized there was a peep hole, and when asked what he wanted wouldn’t have said, “I would like to shoot someone in the house.” When I heard the knock, I figured it must have been Lewis, the neighbor that brought us the soup, and had been known to drop by unannounced. It wasn’t out of the question for a neighbor to come over and introduce themselves to us. We trusted people; we let them into our home to share experiences with us. What happened to Mitch and what happened to us was something that was absolutely not the result of anything we did or where we chose to live; it was the result of someone with a gun who felt he had no problem with ending the life of another human being.

I still love New Haven, and despite what happened I still don’t view it as a war zone or a place to be avoided, but rather a place to be embraced, improved and fixed up. I know that we can only speculate on what “Mitch would want” at this point, but I think that it would be safe to assume that Mitch wouldn’t want his death to result in people fleeing from the city that had become such an important part of his life. I don’t think he would want this incident to make people scared to move into an area where they didn’t “fit in,” demographically speaking. We didn’t move to Bassett Street with some grand plan to integrate and cause world peace, but we did move there because we see all people as equals and we don’t judge anyone by the color of their skin or their socioeconomic status (and to be perfectly honest, I’m sure that most of the people on our street had a higher income level than I did). I want people to keep doing what we were doing, and what we hope to continue doing in the future when we find our footing again.

In the past few weeks there has been a lot of love and positive energy directed towards those of us who were most directly affected, and it is truly inspiring and overwhelming. Sometimes everyone’s kindness alone brings me to the verge of tears. Everyone seems to be a little nicer to each other, a little kinder and a little more positive. Unfortunately, I know from past experience that this isn’t going to last. Soon enough life will go back to normal for most people, so I would urge everyone to act on whatever impulse they have right now to start a project or reach out to loved ones. Life is too short to be wasted on bullshit; it is unfortunate that it takes an incident like this to make us truly grasp that fact, but let’s not waste it. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Don’t be scared. It’s going to get easier.


If you have any questions or thoughts for Andy, you can e-mail him

Today’s story and picture come from Sam Kuhns of Cocoa Beach, FL.  Yes, this is a house show.  I wish more house shows had a sweet pool.  Enjoy! My First House ShowBy Sam KuhnsCocoa Beach, FL is a nice place to visit, but a shit place to live. The activities for young people literally include: the beach, shoplifting, and counting old people. It’s a tourist trap on Florida’s space coast, in Brevard County. Brevard isn’t exactly famous for its punk scene, though a small one does exist, and the bands that are here are awesome. However, there has always been a constant struggle of sorts for punk bands in terms of finding places to play. The local DIY promoters are often very sketchy, and the bars often want nothing to do with punk music. Most of the select few bars that do allow punk bands to play are relatively strict about not allowing anyone in that’s under 18.This was a serious problem for my two best friends and I, as we started a punk band called Common Hate in 2007 when I was 13, and they were 12 and 14. Over the last 4 years, we’ve played almost anywhere that would have us, including, but not limited to, a bagel shop, the Jaycees, the skatepark, and our high school several times. We had kicked around the idea of a house show a few times, but nothing had ever solidified due to most kids around here (that we were friends with, anyway) living in apartment buildings or condos. Then, one day in late 2010, this girl Kat came up to us at school, and asked us to play at her house in Merritt Island (a neighboring town) for her birthday party. We asked her if our friends’ band, One More Try, could play, too. She said that would be alright. We asked her if we could get paid with a case of Mountain Dew, and she said that would be alright, too. A couple weeks later, we realized we already had a show booked that night at Bakers Bagels, a bagel shop that’s also in Merritt Island. After a few minutes of deliberation, we decided to not cancel either, and decided to attempt the ill-fated task of playing two shows, with two bands, in one night. The date of the double-show was only about a week away, and we realized that it would be an extreme act of douchebaggery to drop either this late in the game. The next few days were spent with the 7 collective members of Common Hate (Me, Daniel, Andrew, and Tommy), and One More Try (also Tommy, Max, Cody, and Penguin) , and three of our other friends/impromtu-roadies/party-machines (Chris, Brandon, and Kieran) undergoing the process of intricately planning out rides in order to ensure we made both shows on time. The Saturday of the double-show finally came, and we all met up at my place to load equipment into the 4 different vehicles we’d be taking. We rolled out, and after about a 20 minute drive, our caravan pulled into the “parking lot” (which for the bands was the field behind the venue) of Bakers Bagels. We watched the first band play, and I can’t remember who they were, but I remember them being okay. Then Common Hate loaded all of our shit in and played our set, followed by One More Try. We fire-lined our nearly-entirely-shared equipment back out to our respective cars and vans, and after having to jump start one of the vans, and me almost getting my proverbial shit split while I was trying to pull back out on to the main road, we were on our way to Kat’s house, only about 45 minutes late. The road to Kat’s house was a sketchy one, with a speed limit of about 50, and only about five or six feet between the road and a lake. We were driving into a portion of Merritt Island I had never been to, and I soon realized why. I looked out the window to my right, and suddenly near-mansions were sprouting flying past, secluded by lots of trees and intricate shrubbery. We kept driving for about 30 minutes, passing these gigantic houses, deeper and deeper into the richest (or what I presume is the richest) part of Merritt Island. When we finally reached Kat’s house, we found ourselves in a tucked away little col-de-sac, in front of one of the biggest houses I’ve ever been inside. I mean, we’re talking Fresh Prince of Bel-Air level here. The ten of us walked up to the front door, and Kat (or maybe Kat’s mom, I don’t remember) opened the door. We scoped out the house, and decided that the best place to play would be by the pool. The next 20 minutes or so is a bit of a blur, but somehow we managed to cram our PA, drum kit, amps, etc., into this tiny corner in the pool area, which was enclosed in a screen, taking as much free food/drink we could along the way. When asked, everyone always seems to remember how bitchin’ the brownies were. The party was rave themed or something, and everyone there (20 or 30 kids dressed up very nice, none of whom were into punk or hardcore) had glowsticks wrapped around their necks and wrists (which our crew quickly snatched up, and adorned all over each other), and the whole house was blacklit, dance music blaring. People slowly filtered out into the pool area as we were setting up, and they looked at the ten of us like we were aliens. When all of the stuff was finally set up, the rest of the kids were on the pool deck, seated on various pool deck furniture, 10 to 15 feet away from the equipment. One More Try got up and started playing, and nobody moved. Some of us started hardcore dancing by the pool, trying to get the kids to stand up, but nobody did. One More Try played a killer set, and people clapped at the appropriate moments, but the whole scene was admittedly kind of strange. When One More Try was done, Common Hate started setting up to play. I was feeling really really bad at this point, because I had mono but didn’t know it yet, but all that melted away when we started playing. It was probably the most amazing set I’ve ever played. The kids at the party were into it (I think), but it didn’t matter, because we were into it. We blazed through some originals, then 2 Against Me! covers which the whole band (and all of the rest of our friends) screaming the lyrics as loud as we could. As corny as it sounds, I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt as close to people as I did that night, surrounded (literally) by my friends, in a tiny corner of someone I barely knew’s house, screaming our lungs out. Our set was over all too fast, and a cop showed up all Splinter Cell-like in the backyard after our last song (which was really fucking creepy). He said we could still sing happy birthday, but after that the music had to stop. So we did just that, and then started packing up.After our set, we all went inside and joined the rest of the party. The living room had been dubbed a “dance floor”, which our crew took to hardcore dancing on immediately. Watching the other kids at the party stare at them was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I kind of collapsed in this chair outside because I was having trouble breathing due to the mono I didn’t know I had. Chris kinda took care of me for the rest of the night, and this is gonna sound crazy, but I distinctly remember thinking that if I died that night, it’d be straight because I was with my friends, and I had just played the most fun show of my entire life. I had felt so close to the people who meant most to me, and that was what was important. And I think that’s what’s so special about house shows in general is their ability to make people feel united in ways a normal venue never could. They make us feel closer to the band, closer to the music, but most importantly, closer to our friends and each other. They provide a feeling of intimacy totally unmatched in any other setting, and that feeling is something that is ours forever, and the companies can never commoditize. This was my first house show, but it sure as hell won’t be my last.

Today’s story and picture come from Sam Kuhns of Cocoa Beach, FL.  Yes, this is a house show.  I wish more house shows had a sweet pool.  Enjoy!
 

My First House Show
By Sam Kuhns

Cocoa Beach, FL is a nice place to visit, but a shit place to live. The activities for young people literally include: the beach, shoplifting, and counting old people. It’s a tourist trap on Florida’s space coast, in Brevard County. Brevard isn’t exactly famous for its punk scene, though a small one does exist, and the bands that are here are awesome. However, there has always been a constant struggle of sorts for punk bands in terms of finding places to play. The local DIY promoters are often very sketchy, and the bars often want nothing to do with punk music. Most of the select few bars that do allow punk bands to play are relatively strict about not allowing anyone in that’s under 18.

This was a serious problem for my two best friends and I, as we started a punk band called Common Hate in 2007 when I was 13, and they were 12 and 14. Over the last 4 years, we’ve played almost anywhere that would have us, including, but not limited to, a bagel shop, the Jaycees, the skatepark, and our high school several times. We had kicked around the idea of a house show a few times, but nothing had ever solidified due to most kids around here (that we were friends with, anyway) living in apartment buildings or condos. Then, one day in late 2010, this girl Kat came up to us at school, and asked us to play at her house in Merritt Island (a neighboring town) for her birthday party. We asked her if our friends’ band, One More Try, could play, too. She said that would be alright. We asked her if we could get paid with a case of Mountain Dew, and she said that would be alright, too.

 A couple weeks later, we realized we already had a show booked that night at Bakers Bagels, a bagel shop that’s also in Merritt Island. After a few minutes of deliberation, we decided to not cancel either, and decided to attempt the ill-fated task of playing two shows, with two bands, in one night. The date of the double-show was only about a week away, and we realized that it would be an extreme act of douchebaggery to drop either this late in the game. The next few days were spent with the 7 collective members of Common Hate (Me, Daniel, Andrew, and Tommy), and One More Try (also Tommy, Max, Cody, and Penguin) , and three of our other friends/impromtu-roadies/party-machines (Chris, Brandon, and Kieran) undergoing the process of intricately planning out rides in order to ensure we made both shows on time.

 The Saturday of the double-show finally came, and we all met up at my place to load equipment into the 4 different vehicles we’d be taking. We rolled out, and after about a 20 minute drive, our caravan pulled into the “parking lot” (which for the bands was the field behind the venue) of Bakers Bagels. We watched the first band play, and I can’t remember who they were, but I remember them being okay. Then Common Hate loaded all of our shit in and played our set, followed by One More Try. We fire-lined our nearly-entirely-shared equipment back out to our respective cars and vans, and after having to jump start one of the vans, and me almost getting my proverbial shit split while I was trying to pull back out on to the main road, we were on our way to Kat’s house, only about 45 minutes late. 

The road to Kat’s house was a sketchy one, with a speed limit of about 50, and only about five or six feet between the road and a lake. We were driving into a portion of Merritt Island I had never been to, and I soon realized why. I looked out the window to my right, and suddenly near-mansions were sprouting flying past, secluded by lots of trees and intricate shrubbery. We kept driving for about 30 minutes, passing these gigantic houses, deeper and deeper into the richest (or what I presume is the richest) part of Merritt Island. When we finally reached Kat’s house, we found ourselves in a tucked away little col-de-sac, in front of one of the biggest houses I’ve ever been inside. I mean, we’re talking Fresh Prince of Bel-Air level here. The ten of us walked up to the front door, and Kat (or maybe Kat’s mom, I don’t remember) opened the door. We scoped out the house, and decided that the best place to play would be by the pool. The next 20 minutes or so is a bit of a blur, but somehow we managed to cram our PA, drum kit, amps, etc., into this tiny corner in the pool area, which was enclosed in a screen, taking as much free food/drink we could along the way. When asked, everyone always seems to remember how bitchin’ the brownies were. 

The party was rave themed or something, and everyone there (20 or 30 kids dressed up very nice, none of whom were into punk or hardcore) had glowsticks wrapped around their necks and wrists (which our crew quickly snatched up, and adorned all over each other), and the whole house was blacklit, dance music blaring. People slowly filtered out into the pool area as we were setting up, and they looked at the ten of us like we were aliens. When all of the stuff was finally set up, the rest of the kids were on the pool deck, seated on various pool deck furniture, 10 to 15 feet away from the equipment. One More Try got up and started playing, and nobody moved. Some of us started hardcore dancing by the pool, trying to get the kids to stand up, but nobody did. One More Try played a killer set, and people clapped at the appropriate moments, but the whole scene was admittedly kind of strange.

 When One More Try was done, Common Hate started setting up to play. I was feeling really really bad at this point, because I had mono but didn’t know it yet, but all that melted away when we started playing. It was probably the most amazing set I’ve ever played. The kids at the party were into it (I think), but it didn’t matter, because we were into it. We blazed through some originals, then 2 Against Me! covers which the whole band (and all of the rest of our friends) screaming the lyrics as loud as we could. As corny as it sounds, I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt as close to people as I did that night, surrounded (literally) by my friends, in a tiny corner of someone I barely knew’s house, screaming our lungs out. Our set was over all too fast, and a cop showed up all Splinter Cell-like in the backyard after our last song (which was really fucking creepy). He said we could still sing happy birthday, but after that the music had to stop. So we did just that, and then started packing up.

After our set, we all went inside and joined the rest of the party. The living room had been dubbed a “dance floor”, which our crew took to hardcore dancing on immediately. Watching the other kids at the party stare at them was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I kind of collapsed in this chair outside because I was having trouble breathing due to the mono I didn’t know I had. Chris kinda took care of me for the rest of the night, and this is gonna sound crazy, but I distinctly remember thinking that if I died that night, it’d be straight because I was with my friends, and I had just played the most fun show of my entire life. I had felt so close to the people who meant most to me, and that was what was important.

 And I think that’s what’s so special about house shows in general is their ability to make people feel united in ways a normal venue never could. They make us feel closer to the band, closer to the music, but most importantly, closer to our friends and each other. They provide a feeling of intimacy totally unmatched in any other setting, and that feeling is something that is ours forever, and the companies can never commoditize. This was my first house show, but it sure as hell won’t be my last.

banquetsamerica:

As  you may or may not know, a good friend of ours passed away recently.  Seth Danziger was an incredibly close friend to all of us. His mother,  Maure, is raising money for the Foundation for Suicide Prevention by  taking part in their 18 mile overnight walk in New York City on June  4-5.  If you could, click the link below and support her team with a  donation. http://tinyurl.com/3q8mf48

Seth was a member of our scene who passed away recently.  We’ll be back with more stories in a couple days.  In the meantime, you can donate to Seth’s mother’s fundraiser if you’re so inclined.

banquetsamerica:

As you may or may not know, a good friend of ours passed away recently. Seth Danziger was an incredibly close friend to all of us. His mother, Maure, is raising money for the Foundation for Suicide Prevention by taking part in their 18 mile overnight walk in New York City on June 4-5. If you could, click the link below and support her team with a donation. http://tinyurl.com/3q8mf48


Seth was a member of our scene who passed away recently.  We’ll be back with more stories in a couple days.  In the meantime, you can donate to Seth’s mother’s fundraiser if you’re so inclined.

Here’s a video of a band called Jerkstore playing Vegan House in Canberra, Australia.  It’s on this youtube channel that was submitted by John, who takes video of a lot of shows.  Snoop around his channel to find some other fun house show videos. 

As a sidenote, I really like how the flyer at the end of this video says “Yay!!! Mixed bills!!!”

We’re taking a break from our Canadian house show chronicles for this week.  I wanted to reblog something that I missed while I was on tour.  Andy of I Live Sweat has been hosting a series on sexism in punk, and I think it’s important enough to share, even though it doesn’t specifically relate to house shows.  Then again, maybe it does…

Here’s an essay by Mariel Loveland of Candy Hearts:

 

ilivesweat:

Mariel Loveland Candy Hearts

Photo by Stephen Yang

(Andy’s note: What follows is the second in a series of guest posts about sex and gender discrimination, and how these issues relate to the wider punk scene. If you missed it, you can find the first part here.)

Let me start this by saying that sitting down to…

Photo of Life Sentence performing at Dude Mansion in Brandon, Manitoba.The chronicles of Canadian house Dude Mansion continues…SLAM DUNKby Matt Nothing  
We’ve had only six shows (4 in 2010 and 2 so far in 2011) in the house since we got it, but each one was awesome and fun, and half of them brought in a decent amount of cash for touring bands. The first show was with a band from Victoria called Slam Dunk, with Life Sentence and the Juicy Buseys opening. We couldn’t have asked for a better first show, and Slam Dunk couldn’t have been nicer people. After their set me and Brad played a couple of NOFX songs and everyone sang along. Beers were flowing high and strong, much like the spirit of the party. We hung around getting drunk and yelling about all kinds of stuff. We sat in the basement and smoked from my shitty banana pipe. It’s shaped like a banana. Someone asked at the party, so I’ll tell the boring story of it again. I got it not out of necessity, but because I really needed an excuse to talk to the cute girl at the head shop one day and felt like a dork about it. After we’d been talking for a while, I had to think of something and that was the first thing I saw through the glass display case. That might have also been the day she gave me her number, so we could hang out and watch Home Movies. I really liked her, and even warmed up to the shitty pipe that I never intended to buy. We started hanging out more after that. Sometimes we’d sit on the roof of my dad’s place and smoke from that banana pipe. The roof overlooks the parking lot and smoking area for Clancy’s Pub. We’d just sit there, getting closer and closer as the winter got colder, watching drunk people. Staring at the swirls of clouds in the winter night sky. We don’t really talk anymore, but I still have the pipe somewhere. It rarely gets used anymore. This day was a rare exception. The party raged on for a while. Everyone eventually crashed. I begrudgingly woke up early the next morning and biked to my shitty tech support job after leaving a thank-you note to Slam Dunk for coming out. The day was a shitty, sweaty, mess of a hangover. Somehow though, I knew it was worthwhile because we had a shitty house that we could successfully have shows at.

Photo of Life Sentence performing at Dude Mansion in Brandon, Manitoba.

The chronicles of Canadian house Dude Mansion continues…


SLAM DUNK
by Matt Nothing 
 

We’ve had only six shows (4 in 2010 and 2 so far in 2011) in the house since we got it, but each one was awesome and fun, and half of them brought in a decent amount of cash for touring bands. The first show was with a band from Victoria called Slam Dunk, with Life Sentence and the Juicy Buseys opening. We couldn’t have asked for a better first show, and Slam Dunk couldn’t have been nicer people. After their set me and Brad played a couple of NOFX songs and everyone sang along. Beers were flowing high and strong, much like the spirit of the party. We hung around getting drunk and yelling about all kinds of stuff. We sat in the basement and smoked from my shitty banana pipe. It’s shaped like a banana. Someone asked at the party, so I’ll tell the boring story of it again. I got it not out of necessity, but because I really needed an excuse to talk to the cute girl at the head shop one day and felt like a dork about it. After we’d been talking for a while, I had to think of something and that was the first thing I saw through the glass display case. That might have also been the day she gave me her number, so we could hang out and watch Home Movies. I really liked her, and even warmed up to the shitty pipe that I never intended to buy. We started hanging out more after that. Sometimes we’d sit on the roof of my dad’s place and smoke from that banana pipe. The roof overlooks the parking lot and smoking area for Clancy’s Pub. We’d just sit there, getting closer and closer as the winter got colder, watching drunk people. Staring at the swirls of clouds in the winter night sky. We don’t really talk anymore, but I still have the pipe somewhere. It rarely gets used anymore. This day was a rare exception. The party raged on for a while. Everyone eventually crashed. I begrudgingly woke up early the next morning and biked to my shitty tech support job after leaving a thank-you note to Slam Dunk for coming out. The day was a shitty, sweaty, mess of a hangover. Somehow though, I knew it was worthwhile because we had a shitty house that we could successfully have shows at.