Samantha Garvey, Roving Editor Ω
The Little Big House in downtown Kamloops is home to six people, depending on how you count it. There are four legally, another under a tarp in the living room (who recently moved inside from underneath the half pipe that fills the backyard) and one more, if you count the guy squatting in his van outside the back gate.
“I don’t know our landlord’s name. It’s Mike, or something. He lives in Victoria,” said Lewis Jay, tenant of the residence as well as a punk, metal music promoter. “He must be a really cool dude if he lets stuff like this go down.”
There’s the weed wall, cut-out magazines and photographs of marijuana in raw form covering one wall of the front living room with a Damned Grave banner overhead.
Art on top of layers and layers of previous art fills every other wall, including felt-pen messages, collages and a couple of colourful skulls downstairs. There’s a back patio that can fit a surprising number of people awaiting a show. The shows take place in the basement.
It’s a small space that has been mosh-pit proofed. The stage has been moved around due to new logistical problems that have arisen, such as flooding against the far wall. Its newest location is accessible from the back door so that band equipment can be easily transferred into the venue. The vents above the stage barely clear Jay’s head when he performs and so have been covered with makeshift beanbags to protect from injury.
“Depending on the weather it can get pretty hot down there,” said Mike Knox who has been attending shows at the house since it opened. “And they keep the door closed to not get complaints from the neighbours.
Four concrete walls, no open windows or doors and 60 or more bodies all moving, thrashing and creating their own heat and energy. Not to mention nine or more amps generating the voltage and ignition for the fans.
Typically, there’s a show once a week, at the least every three weeks. Bands come from a large network in the punk, metal, grind scene.
“We’ve had bands from the UK, Greece, Italy, lots of Americans this year,” Jay said, adding more than 500 different bands have played at the house over the last six years. Scotland punk band Oi Polloi, formed in 1981, and Ottawa grind core group F*ck the Facts, are just two among many.
“It’s amazing the musicians who play here.”
When willing bands are coming through town, Jay doesn’t say no.
“It’s the unwritten code of being a promoter.”
The network of out-of-town bands that play at Little Big House also hosts shows for acts from Kamloops who tour to their cities. It took years of dedication to establish and foster those connections.
Jay is part of the seventh generation of tenants.
“It started five, six years ago. A bunch of people were interested in having shows,” he said.
Jay said the crowd that arrives to each show varies all the time.
“We get tons of different people,” he said. “Everyone tries it, some people end up liking it.
“Not everyone likes sweaty basement shows.”
He added there are no other all-ages venues in town.
As a promoter, Jay said he uses Facebook minimally as the RCMP had begun to check online for show dates.
There are attempts to make the room as sound proof as possible. The house is no stranger to noise complaints. Jay said he starts the shows early to try to end them before noise by-laws begin at 11 p.m., which is when the by-law officers will also make their appearances.
“I guarantee they’ll be here tonight,” he said, referring to the Oct. 10 show that featured The Great Sabbatini, Hand of the Horsewitch and Jay’s own band FAMINE.
Jay began playing music at the age of 11 and with the help of his younger brother Eric, released a three-song cassette in grade seven.
“It was really unrehearsed punk.”
Jay is a part of four active bands and at least two others that are temporarily not playing or recording. He is usually found assaulting a microphone while on guitar but he occasionally plays drums.
He graduated high school last year and now works creating silkscreens, including his own designs.
Radio-Schizo is Jay’s hour-long weekly program on 92.5 The X at TRU where he has been a volunteer for two years and is on his 104th volume.
He described his passion for music, especially vinyl, as something that can outlive the artist.
The house will tolerate partying, drinking, puking, falling over, but if anyone gets violent they’re out right away.
“The music’s violent so we don’t have to be.”
Jay admitted there had been a fight the week before but it happens rarely.
He addressed a long list of myths surrounding the house, including smoking crack.
“Not true,” he said. “You can’t come here and do drugs. People try, we tell them to get lost. People drinking and smoking, that’s fine.
“We won’t kick you out, unless you’re perving out.
“We’re not Satanists. There’s no cult.” Although, he admitted he couldn’t speak for the history of the Little Big House. “There was some f*cked up sh*t back in the day.”
This Saturday, Oct. 27, the house hosts the second Tribute Fest. Cost is five dollars without a costume and two dollars with.