After an initial glance of the sprawling college campuses that make up University City, it may seem like there aren’t many scenes accepting of a subversive crowd. There are trashy frat houses, school-sanctioned events and honestly a cliché, played out bar scene for the 21-and-over college crowd.
The social experience of college for those who consider themselves, and their fun, a bit more counterculture need somewhere to live beside a trashy frat house.
Enter the underground house show.
House shows were born out of the need to create a positive community for the people seeking these underground spots to hang out.
Many college students living on or near the campuses of Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania have the freedom of renting out their own housing. Haus of Yarga and The Root Cellar, two houses near Penn and Drexel respectively, are communities ran mostly by college students. These houses host scheduled events – usually concerts in the basement – but also movie nights, dance parties and other events.
For many students, scheduling events and booking talent gives them real-world experience in the fields they are going to school for. Corinne Mastrella Presti, manager and booker for The Root Cellar, and Keenan Prat, who lives at the house and also books shows, are both music industry majors at Drexel.
“I’m a music industry major on the business side of things, Corinne focuses on the tech stuff,” Prat said.
Both houses typically book shows once a week as to not interfere with student work. The artists that are booked for these basement parties are usually also students or just bands and musicians that the house owners know. While many are local, some bands actually travel to play in underground college shows.
Just last week, four touring bands, all from out of state, rocked Yarga’s basement stage to an intimate and insanely sweaty crowd. One band, Modern Color, came all the way from California.
“It’s a lot of connections … but a lot of people also regularly reach out to us,” said Breck Heidenberg, a resident at Haus of Yarga and a student at Temple University.
Hosting shows are about more than just partying for these students. They happen to create great opportunities for new people to congregate in a positive space. Heidenberg, Prat and Presti all agree that meeting new people is one of the best aspects of hosting shows like these.
“I really love the people I get to meet,” Heidenberg said.
When recalling his favorite event he’s hosted at The Root Cellar – which was a performance by Gucci Gucci, an artist from Delaware – Prat explained what made it stand out from the rest. “They just got everyone dancing and really broke the ice,” he said. Seeing it like that feels like a success.”
For most shows, houses will charge a small cover at the door. However, house residents aren’t really profiting anything off of it. Most of the cut is given to the artists who perform, and some are invested in the house to make repairs or generally improve the space.
“When it comes back to us, it gets saved for the supplies we need, equipment, future shows. Some of it would go towards cleaning up the basement,” Heidenberg said.
“After we pay the bands, the rest of the money usually goes into repairing stuff around the house,” Presti said.
The lowest priorities in hosting these events seem to be partying and getting wild. Students often find what’s important is the fact that these are opportunities to meet new people and to be around good friends. They also strive to create a welcoming environment for anyone who comes through.
“We’re focusing on creating more events to bring people together, like movie nights and happy hours,” Heidenberg said. Recently, Haus of Yarga hosted a Wayne’s World viewing party, followed by a happy hour later in the week.
House shows are an underground way to bring together college students seeking a community that they can feel comfortable in. Haus of Yarga and The Root Cellar create welcoming, exciting spaces for everyone – you just have to message someone you know for the address first.