Photos: Mary Flatley. L-R: Elias Bouquillon, Socrates Cruz, Tim Luckow, Shanna MacLasco.
To break from the formula of this feature a little bit, we paired up two groups of people who’ve collaborated previously—and quite successfully—long before this issue hit distribution. GHouse and the guys who booked and maintained Wadzilla Mansion, a beloved and now defunct Allston DIY spot, paired together to put on some of the most talked about shows of the past year. Bands represented by GHouse—including Dirty Dishes, Bad Rabbits, Vending Machetes, Grass is Green and more—have drawn scores of eager listeners down Wadzilla’s steps and into the basement with the neon orange walls for intimate shows that struck a chord a club show could never reach. In this case, the road to hell isn’t paved with good intentions—the road to a vibrant, creative sense of community within the sphere of Boston music is.
ON THAT TIME WHEN BAD RABBITS BROKE THE WADZILLA CEILING:
Eli Bouquillon: Salim going through the ceiling on “Bulls on Parade” was a real highlight of my life.
Socrates Cruz: That show was definitely a different type of show, from anything else we’ve had before up until we got shut down. It was getting a little intense. The floodgates were open, but it was cool.
Tim Luckow: I mean, I would say it was really interesting to see it leading into the need for something like this, though. We’d get hit up by touring bands on legitimate agencies being like, “We’re coming to Boston but we don’t want to do the standard thing, we’d like to, you know, do Wadzilla or do one of these houses.” It’s a different kind of show and bands enjoy it. The vibe is untouchable. People are there for the music, and that’s really it. There’s no awkward bar situation and there’s no giant security bouncers.
Socrates: In a weird way, Wadzilla definitely served an important role in the DIY scene, but I—and I think this is key—I don’t think it was representative of the whole DIY scene. That’s not to discredit the rest of the DIY spots, which I love. It was kind of a fine line to walk because we didn’t want to really speak or represent the DIY underground music scene. I think that’s why a lot of bands definitely wanted to play here because they would like to mix it up.
Shanna MacLasco: It’s a really good step to have in a city where a lot of up-and-coming bands are trying to gain fans. Like you guys were saying, there’s no awkward bar situation and you’re not going to a club nervous that you’re not going to know anyone. It’s more of a community and a more welcoming place to see a band. I could definitely say that a lot of the artists that GHouse works with wouldn’t have as many fans if it wasn’t for this basement scene.
Eli: They definitely started to grow. Every time a band would come back, there seemed to be a few more people too. It seemed like the community was always growing. It was always, like, “This show’s gonna crush the last one.”
ON “THE GOOD KIND OF INCEST” (WTF):
Tim: I remember when you guys installed that new sound system. That was like Christmas. It’s ridiculous. You have these amazing hanging speakers and a real board and real sound men and that’s an amazing thing to have somewhere where there’s … where it’s somewhat unregulated. [laughs]
Socrates: Eli and I would geek out about certain patches, like on the doubling effect and re-verb and delay, and Eli had this other one that he liked to mess with. And, you know, it’s kind of unfair when its your gear and you’re familiar with it, and it’s like being a musician and you’re playing with your hands so you know what its going to sound like. So this was our space we knew what we could do, we knew what would work and what wouldn’t.
Tim: And seeing bands come back again and again, they always got that much more comfortable in the space, they always did that much better during performance and always worked that much harder because they were really enjoying the scene that was there and really knew what to expect.
Socrates: That was really the point of diversifying a lot. ‘Cause, we would really go to a lot of shows just kind of scouting in a way, being like, “That band is awesome, let’s go talk to them.” And that’s the wonderful thing about Boston: you can actually do that, it lends itself to that. New York is a whole other story, but Boston is so incestuous, in a great, wonderful way.
Tim: GHouse is NOT part of that incest.
Socrates: You know, I think people actually take Boston for granted. It’s such a small town--your roommate dated some girl that you were in a band with two years ago, and that’s just what it is. And it’s cool because that’s how you can actually have this network that just develops naturally. It’s great seeing bands show up, and seeing a band that they didn’t even know existed, and they can go to talk to them and set something up for a show somewhere else.
Tim: It was a cool place to be able to approach people, too, becausewhen you’re promoting a show it’s so much easier to approach a band that plays somewhere. As a promoter, you’re not already $300 in debt, or however much in debt before the shows starts. It’s more about “We want to make this line up because this show will be really cool!” much more than “We need this band because they’re going to draw 30 people.” It’s nice to be able to focus on that side a little bit less. It’s a matter of inviting people here. The majority of people at the shows were musicians, so almost everybody in the crowd is in their own band and has probably played in a band with somebody on stage at some point, or at least jammed.
Socrates: Or recognize them from some show and never talked to them. [laughs]
ON GETTING “TOO REAL”:
Socrates: Baltimore also has a really cool warehouse scene, but it keeps getting shut down then popping back up. But for people who are interested in independent, underground music, it’s nice because it doesn’t stay underground.
Eli: I’d say it really just prepares the bands for those big … I think the [Dirty] Dishes are a great example of a band that really grew here, and learned a lot about different shows in general. You know, they would have their show here and then open for Passion Pit at the House of Blues, and then play Wadzilla.
Shanna: It was just a really good spot to have bands become accustomed to playing in front of people.
Eli: Try out new songs, try out new styles.
Shanna: Yeah, and just practice for bigger shows. And just getting actual feedback from an audience, and people who actually come to listen to the music and know them and know the songs. It’s amazing seeing a show happen in a basement and people being really into it. It’s really present across the country, too--DIY is such a strong thing that people don’t really realize. It’s a very important thing for people that are up and coming. When Dirty Dishes and Grass is Green did their two month tour earlier this year, 90 percent of it took place at DIY spots. We wouldn’t have been able to do the tour if it wasn’t for these scenes just wanting to bring in new music, and kids in these towns just wanting to listen to new music. And Wadzilla was able to represent it so well here.
Elias: One part about that whole comfortable environment was that you can really focus on your own versatility as a band. You get to get up, the practice thing goes a little deeper than that--it’s how they can come up with new ideas and let it go. Similar thing here is that people know this space and could play two hours at. We hang out and write music. It was a space where friends hanging out could hang out, and it’s a space where people can be comfortable with the whole process of it, whereas the bar scene it’s something like, you have to go through the ritual and you get all these things out of the way.
Socrates: It’s tough because bars have certain limitations and responsibilities. Most people, they’ll bring up, “Oh you guys got shut down, that’s so sad.” But it’s fine … in a way, it’s fine. We have more free time now! There’s that side. I mean I wouldn’t even describe Wadzilla as a venue. I would describe Wadzilla more as an imaginary community that happened to gravitate around a particular house.
Tim: … I would give yourself more credit than that.
Socrates: Yeah, But definitely, you know now, we’ll be at some show, and someone that played here will be playing, and someone else who played here unrelated to that person will be playing, and you just bring those people together.
Eli: That was the whole goal.
Socrates: It was very conceptual in that sense. I mean, we’re all musicians.
Elias: I think we all learned at Bad Rabbits that we all tried to make it too real. It was so much like a real venue that I was almost at the peak of, “Oh Shit.” Almost knowing we had reached that point.
Socrates: It definitely very clearly revealed the limitations of this space. And the resources.
Eli: At Bad Rabbits, we had a fun show with a packed room. So there was a lot of range in what we could do, but I think, you know, we definitely couldn’t--it would have been completely unsustainable to do Bad Rabbits every weekend.
Shanna: But with bands who’ve reached that level while still maintaining the DIY mentality it just shows the common appreciation in the music industry in general, with hospitality and how it should be. You should be able to just reach out to a band and work with them and find out how to be cool with them. I always think that Wadzilla helped establish something very organic, and kind of the attitude that at least GHouse has, of working people who are just about none of the contracts, anything, just a very organic, happy relationship with people.
Tim: With bands that play music to play music.
Shanna: Exactly. There’s no ulterior motives to it. it was amazing having a place like that to work with.