The Rapidian

Local house venue welcomes returning artists, new faces to variety concert




 The Landmarks (Ann Arbor) performing last year at The CompoundPictured: The Landmarks (Ann Arbor) performing at The Compound last year

Beneath the surface of the Grand Rapids music community, even more underground than “underground”, lies the house venue scene, where hosts lend their basements or living rooms to artists seeking exposure. Some of the most powerful performances can be experienced in the intimate setting of a home, where the emotion of a toiling performer becomes tangible and raw. No lights, no smoke & mirrors, just music. This week, on Saturday, a house known as The Compound will open its doors for four local groups: Bet On Rats, I Believe In Julio, Charlie Darling, and First Curse.

Bet On Rats is a folk punk outfit founded by singer and frontman Dan Smith, who began the project in May of 2014. The group consists of Smith on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Don Carlisle on upright bass, Derek Blossom on electric guitar and Midhat Begovic on drums. The acoustic-electric elements provide a percussive grit which adds to their folk rock sound, and Smith’s witty, scathing lyrics serve as a mean flavor to their debut EP, Easy Now, which was released in April of last year. The band is expected to release a full-length album this year.

I Believe In Julio is a punk/ rock n’ roll outfit with a notably peculiar online presence. Founded by local musician Julio G√≥mez (formerly of Nathan Kalish & The Wildfire), the previously unnamed group decided on their nomenclature following the release of a hyper, shred-friendly EP entitled I Believe In Julio, which was released on cassette through 1980 Records. The trio includes drummer Tony Spielmaker and bassist Dan Fisher, who also performs in Matt Ten Clay & The Howlers, Shane Tripp, Mavericks & Monarchs, and Mat Churchill. Their upcoming release, rumored to be a slight change in direction, is expected in July.

How does your upcoming release differ from your initial EP?
Julio: When I recorded the first I Believe In Julio tape I was still playing with the wildfire. I booked some dates with Matt Ten Clay without a band ready or arrangements written. I put an S.O.S. out on Facebook looking for drummers to come to the studio and play on the record. A few showed up, including Tony Spielmaker, who would eventually join the band as a permanent member, even though the song he recorded (crazy summer) has not been released to the public. Dan Fisher was also at this session, providing the rhythm guitar for me to play drums to. The recording was scattered and up to my own whims and took a very long time to finish. My heart was not always in it but when the inspiration hit I was able to write great lines on the spot. This time around I have a solid band with solid arrangements. There are still two tracks on the new record that we did not have arranged before entering the studio and those are maybe among my favorites on the album. We really strived for consistency between takes and tracks and we recorded each lick, each beat until we thought it was as good as it could get. There's a lot of goodies on this new one. Dan fisher plays some guitar and Tony even sings a line. It was much much more collaborative than our last release.
What is the advantage of releasing music on cassette in the digital age?
Julio: I have an easier time selling tapes than I did CDs! 1980 is the only label that has taken any interest in I Believe In Julio and they are primarily tape releases. Bill Tucker (owner 1980) and I talked about a vinyl release of this new record, but for now a cassette release with digital distribution will do. Bill works magic with tape duplication. Everything I've heard him do has been very high quality.
How do house concerts benefit a healthy music community?
Julio: House shows are fun. I can't really speak much about them that hasn't been said already. It's like church for us. We played our first one with Bong Mountain this year and I spilled beer all over Dan's nice guitar amp.

Samantha Andrade, operator of The Compound, is also a performer at this variety concert. Charlie Darling is a solo folk project by Andrade, who is an active performer, event coordinator, and promoter in the West Michigan music scene. Sam says she has always enjoyed coordinating events, and combining this with her love of live music naturally inspired her to host house concerts. Her newest release, Quorum Sensing, was published on Bandcamp in December, and Sam intends to work on a full-length release following her brief tour down to Louisville later this summer.

First Curse has a sound that has yet to be perceived by audiences, as this Saturday will be their debut performance. The trio’s music is described by Claire Breen, guitarist and vocalist, as “riot grrrl” music, taking strong influence from feminist punk and grunge bands like L7 and Bikini Kill. Rayne Klar, local artist and band merch designer, plays bass, and percussion is provided by Dolores Jo Disgrace.

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