Local rock ‘n’ roll lives beneath the rafters

By Sam Beard, @SamBeard_DE

In the loud, smoke-filled and dimly lit basements of Carbondale, the city’s underground music scene is in full bloom. 

From the bars to large-scale drinking parties and various events on campus, there is a lot to do in the city. However, upon digging deeper, one can find an open and eclectic group of individuals that has created something different.

A show rocks one of the community’s four D.I.Y. house venues at least once a week.


“D.I.Y. stands for Do It Yourself. As a general ethos, it’s about taking direct action to live independently from capitalist society. Some of us are creating safer spaces for people of all ages, genders, skin colors, sexual orientations and abilities,” according to Do D.I.Y., an online catalog of the global underground artistic community, including Carbondale’s scene.

Adaline Tucker, a senior from Champaign studying studio arts, said the city’s small but lively scene offers regional and touring acts an opportunity to play for attendees in an open and safe space. 

Tucker lives at The Swamp, one of the city’s show houses, and said she has met people from across the country who visit Carbondale specifically for its culture since moving in three years ago.

Each basement venue offers a different experience for those who visit the anti-establishment establishments.

The Swamp, which is hosting the rock band “Single Player” at 9 p.m. Dec. 30, lets attendees warm their toes by a small backyard bonfire. Tucker often has a batch of curry simmering in her kitchen’s cauldron, filling the stomachs of hungry guests, and the house, with tempting aromas.

The Taco Stand, which was recently revived after a brief hiatus, tends to draw a larger crowd than its counterparts. Pop-punk, hardcore and Japanese rock ‘n’ roll are only some of the genres heard at the home this semester. 

Skihaus, the flagship basement venue in town, facilitates a variety of shows. Events are not restricted to live music, as it has hosted a freak show and two art exhibitions in the last year.

Lost Cross claims to be the oldest punk house in the country. Layers of graffiti, posters and concert bills plaster the historic home’s interior. In an interview with the DAILY EGYPTIAN in 1998, Lost Cross co-founder James Ricks said he moved into the house in 1986. The home has been hosting shows for the past 29 years. 

The people who live in Carbondale’s show houses don’t make money off of the shows they host, and Tucker said organizers participate solely for the experience.

Peter Rogalla, a former SIUC student, said he moved into The Taco Stand because he had always wanted to live in a punk house, although he does not limit the performances in his basement to punk music.

He said the D.I.Y. network benefits those who live in and visit the area in a way commercial music venues and bars cannot. 

“I’ve met more real and honest people hanging out at house shows in town than I have in any bar,” said Rogalla, who plans to return to the university next semester to study photography and philosophy. “Bars are a place you go to when you want to consume alcohol with friends. The D.I.Y. houses are spaces provided for people of any age to come and enjoy live music in a friendly environment — they’re unlike anywhere else in Carbondale.”

Tucker said the underground counterculture builds a strong music and arts network that reverberates throughout the region and brings people together. Rogalla said the bonds of friendship and solidarity that hold the scene together carry over into the community.

“The D.I.Y. scene in Carbondale fosters a culture of family-like support amongst people who want an escape from the bores of day to day life as a student,” Rogalla said. “Also, being able to see raw talent in a safe environment is more beneficial to individuals than going to a bar or a party and just getting wasted.”

Marcus Lappin, the drummer for a Carbondale psychedelic garage rock band Hans Predator, said he prefers performing in basements more than bars.  

“There is definitely more interaction in a basement, rather than when we’re playing 30 feet away from the crowd at some bar,” Lappin said.

Hans Predator front man Evan Neuman agreed with his bandmate.

“I like playing house shows more so than bars,” Neuman said. “Of course bars pay more, but at house shows the band generally gets a better response from the audience.”

Some local acts have a tough time getting booked at bars, and often must prove they can pull a crowd before landing a gig. Tucker said bars have their place in the city’s nightlife, but the basements offer independent artists a chance to build a following.

“Its easier to approach musicians and bond with other people as a crowd in a basement than at a bar,” Tucker said. “Basements also give smaller local acts who are trying to get their foot in the door a chance to play in front of an audience.”

Rogalla said all newcomers who bring good vibes to the table are welcome.

Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SamBeard_DE