There comes a point before every concert when they're convinced no one will show up.
"I'm always nervous, yet people always come," says David Graybill, who only moved into the 100-year-old Moscow farmhouse known as the Bayou a month ago, but has been helping out since the first basement shows started up late last year.
The four roommates — cramped in their kitchen, as show booker Allyson Amstutz whips up a curry dinner for the visiting bands — know that house show time is different from a regular concert venue, like what you'd find down the road at the 21-plus John's Alley. When a flier touts a 7 pm start, as tonight's did, that means 8 pm at the earliest. Last week, the group hosted three concerts, thanks to Boise's Treefort Music Festival bringing a bunch of bands through the area. They worry that local music fans will be too tired for this Sunday night concert. But it's just 7:30 pm, so they have to wait and see.
House shows aren't new. Spokane has them sporadically. Pullman's college radio station, KZUU 90.7 FM, has recently hosted a couple of fundraisers at homes. In Moscow, where all-age music venues are few and far between, a place like the Bayou (which normally doesn't charge a cover) consistently fills the void.
"We have shows so we can go to shows," says housemate Robin Kok, a University of Idaho student.
The four-bedroom house, situated on a mossy plot right off Troy Road between an auto repair shop and coffee stand, has a grassroots musical history. The Bayou housemates say that some older concertgoers have regaled them with tales of the crazy 1980s, when the three-level space was known as the Farmhouse and couches sat in the surrounding trees. There have been other monikers over the years, but the crew is sticking with Bayou now because it's tucked next to Paradise Creek.
"Also, the name is fitting. Those trees out there are super creepy," says Madelyn Wall, the youngest of the bunch at 21.
The living room slowly fills with friends and strangers. Ostraca, the touring hardcore punk three-piece from Richmond, Virginia, sits in one corner eating the vegan curry that Amstutz made while talking about their emotions. The band recently played SXSW and has been on tour for a month. They say that playing house shows is always a relief from the grind. Plus, the Bayou even has a couple of couches to crash on, rather than the floor.
The kitchen is getting crowded with concertgoers. They drink Miller High Life out of the can and talk about the amazingly warm weather.
The roommates say that the Bayou's patrons are respectful.
"People have even asked me where our recycling is," says Amstutz. "And they're all willing to donate money to the bands."
They've only had a couple of issues with the bands. One time a drummer made racial slurs (he's never allowed back) and at another show, a group made some misogynistic comments about "f---ing bitches" in between songs.
"We don't tolerate that type of behavior here," Amstutz says.
The big thing is there are no drugs or underage drinking allowed. The roommates want the shows to be about the music.
The venue, one that's also hosted comedy shows and poetry readings, is booked until July. After that, questions arise. Everyone plans to move. They hope whoever takes over the house next will continue the shows, but there's no way to tell.
First, it's the scream, one of those guttural yells, that brings people stepping lightly down the nearly vertical stairs to the unfinished basement filled with Christmas lights. That was only the mic check, but like a siren call, it whets concertgoers' appetites for more music. As the second band of the night, Spokane/Coeur d'Alene hardcore three-piece East Sherman packs about 40 listeners into the L-shaped concrete space. When they finally launch into their speedy, blackened music, it's like there's nothing else but this skull-rattling noise. People stare and nod. One girl unties her long blonde hair and whips it into a frenzy.
No matter what genre is playing, punk kids, rednecks, Washington State University students and hippie granola types mesh together in this dark basement. Tonight is the same. The body odor is nearly unbearable.
The rest of the town knows what goes on here because the music reverberates well outside the confines of the basement. Sometimes, the gas station down the street gives people directions to the shows. Cops roll by, but never stop in. And the baristas at the coffee stand in the parking lot say they always enjoy meeting the bands that come through the morning after.
Soon, the rambunctious 15-minute set — that's the time limit Amstutz prefers — ends abruptly. We're left wanting more.
"This is why we do this," says the newest roommate, Graybill. "We want people to have the loud, and then take pleasure in the silence. It's not like a show where you have to listen for two hours straight. We want people to talk to one another here." ♦
The next Bayou show is Sat, April 16, feat. Lucky+Love and Anterroir. Find out more at Facebook: The Bayou Moscow.