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May 24, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
All the furniture in Andrew Squitiro’s living room has been moved out except for a 6-foot-tall wooden Indian in the corner. “Candyland” is spray-painted on a sheet tacked to the wall, and soon 30 guests will arrive to listen to live music. It’s hard to believe so many people can fit into such a small living room, but when the band starts to play, the close quarters don’t matter.
Guests sit cross-legged on the floor and groove to the music. Periodically, the show goers get up to smoke a cigarette out back. The music might only be OK, according to Squitiro, and space might be cramped, but the intimacy of the scene keeps DIYers coming back for more.
Across Columbia, a DIY movement is stirring up the music scene. Approximately once a month, music enthusiasts host shows in their homes or below businesses to offer lesser-known bands an opportunity to be heard and connect with their audience.
Squitiro runs ComoDIY.org, which expresses his philosophy on doing it yourself and provides information for upcoming house shows in town.
“We need to hang out with strangers, listen to music and read radical literature because without us, those things wouldn’t exist,” Squitiro writes on his website. “If the media calls this class warfare, then call every show a battle.”
There is something intimate about DIY venues such as Squitiro’s home. The DIY community opens its doors to bands looking for exposure or even just a free hot meal. Here, the line between performer and audience becomes blurred.
“I’ve gone on a few DIY tours, and it is really nice when people turn it into this community thing and offer free food,” musician and promoter Aaron Hand says. “If you get lucky, you’ll make enough gas money to make it to the next town.”
The Hairhole on the north side of downtown seems to be the most well-known venue of its kind in Columbia. The music varies from show to show, and musicians aren’t afraid to bust eardrums.
More than 50 sweaty show goers clad in leather and patches come to the Hairhole to hear music they couldn’t in traditional venues. The Hairhole is small, like the Candyland venue, but the industrial-looking basement is filled with so much energy it feels as if the roof could collapse at any second. You can smell the dreadlocks, and they smell like the sweat of head banging.
Although the music is loud, the Hairhole proprietors keep to themselves. They say they don’t want to attract any more attention than necessary and declined to be interviewed.
Sure, the DIY music scene has been active underground for years, but with the rising interest in DIY in other areas, more music lovers are getting involved.
Promotion for shows stays mostly within the circle. Individual promoters such as Squitiro and Hand primarily use Facebook and word of mouth to advertise upcoming performances.
Everyone is invited, Squitiro says, but he tries not to create too much buzz. Before the first show Squitiro hosted in his home, he and his friends handed out fliers downtown. But after more than 100 people showed up to his house, he decided he wouldn’t do it again.
Without some promotion from members of this community, people wouldn’t know it exists, Hand says. He puts in the work for other bands because he believes in a type of music karma.
“You help me out, I’ll help you out,” Hand says. “It’s kind of like this circle.”
Hosting one of these shows can be a lot of work. Squitiro books the bands and makes food for everyone attending. He helps set up and gives the performers a place to stay. But there is some risk involved. Squitiro has upstairs neighbors in his building just north of the MU campus, although they haven’t complained.
Squitiro keeps it all-acoustic in Candyland. No plug-ins are allowed. Many DIY venues also have an 11 p.m. self-patrolled curfew, and they shut down before it’s late enough to disturb others. So far, Squitiro hasn’t had any trouble with law enforcement.
He says he takes the risk because the rewards of participating in the DIY culture are worth it, and people in this community are respectful. In the end, he says it’s all about the music.