Tiny House lives up to its namesake.
An unassuming row home on a block of unassuming row homes, Tiny House is not only the home to a few punk kids, but also home to the smallest show space I have ever seen. Having only been there once before I thought maybe my memory was exaggerating its diminutive dimensions, but upon entering the unfinished basement at 4055 Ludlow St., I knew I had not been imagining things.
With a staircase running down the center of it, and plenty of piping and ducts to avoid when finding a spot to stand, the basement of Tiny House may not seem like the most ideal place to see a band rock, but shortly after Slingshot Dakota kicked things off, I realized it was more intimate than cramped, more personal than uncomfortable.
Have you ever been listening to an indie band, and think, “Damn, I wish they could just kick it up a notch!” Well, Slingshot Dakota fulfilled that wish for me. A three-piece band consisting of guitar that moves from the delicate note-picking of the Weakerthans to an almost post-hardcore vibe, keyboard that is made up of intricate lines instead of the two-finger banging found in many underground bands these days, and drumming that seems almost like it would be more at home in a hardcore band once it breaks out, Slingshot brought both the pop and the aggression. Perhaps what was most impressive was the vocal work of singers Carly Comando and Jeff Cunningham. Ignoring the gender stereotypes that usually come along with vocal inflections, they both offered up soft melodies and passionate shouts, and when they worked together I can honestly say it was the best harmonies I have ever heard in a basement.
As might be expected in a venue such as this, there were sound problems. The PA seemed pushed to the max, leaving the vocals sometimes muffled or slightly distorted, while the low-end keyboard work sometimes brought feedback with it. Still, the band put on a great performance showing that even an indie act based around clean guitars and keyboards can still rock.
Maybe I shouldn’t have left the basement between bands, because when I come back down for Latterman it was almost impossible to get near the spot where the band was set up. After finding myself pressed up against a wall made of rough stone, the claustrophobic conditions only grew more intense. With about forty people in attendance, some of which had to sit on the stairs because they couldn’t even get down to the floor, the basement screamed fire hazard.
After some amp issues, Latterman thanked everyone for crowding in and launched into “Doom!Doom!Doom!” Yeah, the equipment problems continued during the song (and for the next couple), but it didn’t really matter too much. The conviction and devotion that Latterman expressed was nearly tangible, and I realized they don’t shout because they want to, but because when you are aiming for the 110% goal that they are, anything less than yelling at the top of your lungs just won’t cut it. Live you can see they care about those lyrics they penned, from the strained throat muscles to the closed eyes and looks of pained concentration. Hell, even the kids in the crowd cared about those lyrics as they shouted along and bounced to the music.
Their set consisted almost entirely of songs from No Matter Where We Go..!, but they also busted out a new one entitled “If Batman Were Real, He Would Have Beat Up Most of My Friends by Now,” and “There’s Never a Reason Not to Party” from their first album. What made this old song interesting was that Jeff from Slingshot Dakota did some vocals on the recorded version and was right up front to grab the mic and scream along with Canino.
Between songs the band offered short descriptions about the tunes, but it was before playing their final song of the night, “My Bedroom is Like for Artists,” that Canino said perhaps the most poignant thing of the evening. After explaining that the song was about the way that we have all been acculturated into a society full of sexism, racism, and homophobia, and the only way to deal with it is to communicate, he simply stated, “Punk rock saved my life. I’m sure it saved a lot of your lives too, so let’s save punk rock.” After this the band preceded to tear through their closer with pure tenacity, showing just how important punk rock is to them.
So maybe the sound wasn’t perfect, and maybe being packed in wasn’t the most ideal situation for watching a show, but when it comes to DIY performances you shouldn’t be looking for amazing tone or a good seat. Instead, it's important just to realize that people can still come together on their own accord to support something and learn from each other without corporate forces intervening.
"For the kids, by the kids" may be a bit cliché, but that was what I saw embodied in Tiny House and the performances of Slingshot Dakota and Latterman.