Teenage Riot

For a new all-ages scene, rock & roll can't wait

Cory Ramsey, of the Twin Cities' A Present Help Booking and Promotions, sees a minority of dancers spoiling the fun, and wasn't surprised when the Toybox canceled his remaining hardcore shows. The practice of "crowd killing"—dancers purposely trying to hit onlookers in the audience—in particular, he says, is alarming.

"My rule is, I don't care what happens in the pit," says Ramsey. "To me, it's going after the people trying to stay away from the pit that pisses me off. To the people doing that, I want to say: You're ruining the scene."

Well before First Avenue and the 7th St. Entry began hosting all-ages punk shows, basements were the place to avoid all those legal entanglements. "For punk rock, the best-case scenario for an all-ages show is a house or something where there doesn't need to be security or insurance," says Erik Funk, who started out in basements with his band Dillinger Four, and still regularly books all-ages shows at the Triple Rock.

Funk praises the recently relaunched Alamo, and at least seven other houses routinely host off-the-map shows, including Castle Greyskull, the Organ House, and the Chicken House.

A week after the show at the Vault, Fargo band Gumbi rock the basement of the Pocketknife, the Whittier neighborhood house where Baby Guts members and former Garage volunteers Laura Larson and Taylor Matori have been putting on events since last summer. A few blocks away on the same night, punks crowd into the backyard behind a Minneapolis house known as Two Pines to hear dreadlocked banjo player Angie Lynch sing under a rising half moon. Farther south, the much louder Retainers blow out a basement party at another punk house called White Trash.

At the Pocketknife, Gumbi hunch over their instruments as if to reach through the metal and wood and tear into their own bodies. Like most basement shows, this one is about 15 degrees hotter than the warm night air outside, the ceiling insulated by white mesh and orange velvet curtains. About 30 people under age 25, plus a few oldsters, are stuffed in here between a couple of pillars, glistening with sweat, some resting their hands on the pipes crossing the low ceiling overhead.

During the fuzz-funk breakdown on "Jaw," a dozen people break into slam dancing. Jostled but smiling, Larson collects gas money for the out-of-town bands.

"It's a lot more intimate in a basement," she says, "because you're all kind of packed into one tiny little place. We'll have house meetings to book bands, and we use MySpace. Our neighbors have to be okay with it. It's a constant worry when you're having house shows, that something is going to go wrong, or your neighbors are going to call the cops, because it's one less place where kids can go see shows."

At one point, Gumbi's bassist announces, "Thanks to Baby Guts for setting up the show. Also, we need a fun place to stay tonight."

"You can stay here," comes a shout from the back. The vote has already been taken. 

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