Slice of Life: The Blue House

By Daniel Wirtheim

Writing the first sentence is often the most difficult part of writing an article. It needs to be bold. It needs to be daring, courageous and enthralling. It’s a lot of pressure to write the first sentence, and I was thinking about how I would start this one as I was peeing on the side of The Blue House.

The Blue House is a do-it-yourself music venue on Lake Street that will occasionally host what is know as the house show, or a music act in a house as opposed to a professional venue. While I was thinking about the first sentence of this article, one of the better house shows I had seen in a while was going on inside, and that’s saying something, because I’ve been to a lot of good house shows lately.

The Carousers were playing The Blue House that night, a Greensboro five-piece with gritty jams steeped in elements of traditional rock-n-roll. There’s an unbridled passion for loudness with some really sophisticated guitar licks. It’s refreshing, because house shows in Greensboro weren’t always like that.

When I was originally exploring the Greensboro music scene, house shows were a stage for either unconventional geniuses, or overly confident disappointments. There was a little cellar in Glenwood, The Karate Dungeon, that used to be the best place for finding these musical idiosyncrasies. There was a low-lying ceiling, with exposed plumbing, and the smell that might occupy a damp once-inhibited-by-early-hominoids cavern. It was primitive, and so was the music.

The lyrics came out in an incomprehensible mutter that matched the feelings of doubt I was having in private thought. One time, I saw a musician in a hockey mask attack a sheet of metal with an electric saw, spraying sparks across the floor. It was a radical and understated movement to say the least. While some were stuck on the politics of the Dungeon, there were others who used the venue to flex their creative muscles.

The Three Brained Robot, led by Sam Martin was able to channel our sexually frustrated minds into a stream of powerful emotions. They used a parachute, like the ones used in elementary gym classes, and a talking puppet to explain something that no one could understand, and it was enjoyable like that. Three Brained Robot has gone on country-wide tours and played bigger venues. They sound best in houses, and I was lucky to see them play at Hell Raiser Haus on Feb. 13.

Hell Raiser Haus is a house show venue near Fisher Park, with a large front porch. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, what were to become two of my favorite Greensboro acts were playing; Anne-Claire and the Wild Mystics, and Quilla.

I’ve seen Quilla before, and I knew how danceable yet complex their sound could be. Anna Lazuli is a dynamic songwriter, traversing a musical wonderland with sensual rhythmic tracks and pulsating dance numbers. She’s a crowd-pleaser and a friendly face off-stage. I was expecting Quilla to be great, but it was Anne-Claire and the Wild Mystics that really pushed me over the edge.

Their songs were complex, but digestible. There are horns and back-up vocals, which at a house show could be easily over done, but came out just right at Hell Raiser Haus. As my friend Kate puts it, “It’s good to see people who are actually studying music playing music.”

Anne-Claire had a theatrical, but not over-indulgent, stage-presence that walked the line between cute and phenomenal. It makes me wonder if this is an evolutionary step in the Greensboro House Show scene. Still, others are skeptical.

“The current house show scene in greensboro living underground and clinging to life,” said Martin, of Three Brained Robot. “Its difficult to maintain but it could grow if there were multiple people dedicated to it, not just a small faction.”

It’s true, there’s not a lot of house show venues in Greensboro, and going to one requires that you have a well-connected Facebook page, or a lot friends in bands. When I do go out, I can’t help but feel that the Greensboro music scene is maturing. Maybe there’s another Karate Dungeon out there, for the young-blood of the Greensboro. Maybe the original Karate Dungeon still lives. I’m not completely sure that I want to find out, and I’m even more uncertain of what the first sentence of this article should be.

Categories: daniel wirtheim, Slice of Life, The Blue House

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