Kyle Barnes, the lead singer of Graf Orlock, is writhing on a living room floor, fighting to keep control of the mic and avoid getting doused with Coke.
The setting is a house on Oxford Avenue in East Hollywood, and something resembling a brawl is brewing. The room is reverberating under the sonic pressure from Graf's fridge-sized amplifiers. The couches lining the living room serve as makeshift elevated standing room.
Just minutes earlier, before the amps were flipped on, however, the scene was entirely different.
It was a quiet spot a place filled with a low hum of voices, and the smell of food being prepared in the back of the house. The soundtrack was muted ranchero music from down the street.
Since the summer of 2011, East Coast transplant Tuna (that's her name) Tardugno, has put on intimate and very intense house shows in a the spot where she lives with roommates. It's known as the Oxford House, and has played host to a series of fantastic shows. Tomorrow, March 7, you can catch Run with the Hunted, Seizures, Mossbreaker, and Plagues.
“The first thing I noticed about this place when I moved in was the size of the living room,” says Tardugno who works at Amoeba Records and freelances as an animator. “I immediately thought: House shows!”
Such concerts are a good way to cut out the proverbial middle man, of course, and are more common on the East Coast, where basements are more common. (Here in SoCal we have our backyards, of course.)
At Oxford House, Tardugno doesn't have to worry about the bar and the door taking a cut. “We don't take anything here. Whatever we make at the door goes straight to the bands.”
“We try to not press our luck,” she goes on. “We haven't had any complaints from the neighbors and we want to keep it like that. They just think we're the crazy people up the street.”
Thankfully, the cops haven't shown much interest either, which Tardugno attributes to the fact that shows end promptly at 10 pm and only go down on weekends.
Tardugno manages the bands, while her boyfriend Mike and his colleague Beth, with whom he runs the Pure Luck Pop Up restaurant, cook delicious vegan food in the back, usually burritos or BBQ jackfruit sandwiches, available for five bucks.
Tardugno has never had any concerns about opening her house up to strangers. People respect the fact that the venue is first and foremost a home, she says.
“I've met a lot of good friends doing these house shows. I tell my mom about it and she thinks I'm fucking nuts,” Tardugno says, “but it's so hard to book a show as a band in L.A. It's very cliquey and hard to get in with the bookers at the bigger venues.”
She adds that her dream is to open a restaurant with an attached concert space. “I love doing this, though. At house shows you feel a sense of community. There's no special treatment.”
Beer puddles and the occasional patch of scratched floor, Tardugno says, are the worst aftereffect of the shows.
“Well, one time a housemate of mine did get angry and kicked a hole in the wall.” Tardugno admits. “But that didn't have anything to do with a show!”