Some Philadelphians use their basements for doing laundry or storing Christmas decorations. But some may go a completely different route by plugging in amps, setting up drum kits and hosting loud, rowdy basement shows.
Evan Lescallette, a junior media studies and production major, further explored basement shows in his 20-minute long documentary, “My Basement is a S—hole.”
Made for his Genre of Media Production class, Lescallette may have conceived the idea by himself but had a team behind him to complete the project, including producer Luke Proctor, Ayanda Sithole and Tina Lam.
Originally, Lescallette said, he wasn’t planning on pitching an idea about music at all – but bikes instead.
“I was in my room writing a stupid treatment about bikes in Philly, and I was like, I should just do it on music, because that’s what I care about,” Lescallette said. “I didn’t want to do it on music at first, because I didn’t think anybody in my class would be interested in doing it, because we voted on the documentary choices – which ones we wanted to get produced – and I was like, I don’t think anyone is going to want to do it on punk and DIY.”
Lescallette said he originally felt “nervous” when pitching the idea. He said he knew if the idea was picked up, he would have to take charge and have additional responsibilities.
House shows have quickly escalated into a subculture of Philadelphia, where many pay a few bucks to be let into a house and hear some of their favorite bands, which might not necessarily have the resources, time or audience to book bigger venues.
Lescallette said the passion for the subject comes from being a musician himself. He’s the guitarist for the band Marietta, which is highly involved in the Philly DIY scene and community.
“It’s important that there [are] basement shows to be the spot for those touring bands to play, and I just love it because when I was in middle school and high school I would just be looking on the Internet at these cool bands, and every picture…would be [the band] just playing in a basement, and I would be like, ‘That’s cool, I wonder if that actually happens?’ And I get here and I’m like, ‘Wow, it happens all the freaking time,’” Lescallette said.
Some of the bands interviewed in the documentary include Smoother, Bleeding Fractals, Grower, Little Pirouettes and Mumblr. Along with interviews from band members, the documentary also included commentary from owners of the venues and audience members.
Lescallette attended his first house show as a freshman at a venue called the Maggot House, which he said is still his favorite. Coming from a smaller town with little-to-no music scene, he said he immediately became interested. Even today, he said he can be found at a house show or two nearly every weekend.
After forming Marietta in 2011, the band’s first show and Lescallette’s first time as a performer at a house show was at a venue called the IHOP Estate. The band played with other bands such as Hightide Hotel, Waxahatchee and Glocca Mora.
“I don’t even know how we got on that show,” he said.
Filming for the group took an entire semester, with pre-production taking about a month, and the editing taking a week, which Lescallette said came easy to him.
However, the most difficult part of the entire process, Lescallette said, was the actual legwork of filming the basement shows. He said he would stress about carrying expensive equipment into a crowded, chaotic environment.
Beyond that, getting to enough shows proved to be a difficult task as well.
“Sometimes I just felt overwhelmed with how many shows there were, and there were so many different bands to shoot,” Lescallette said. “I know that some of the criticism I got on it was I didn’t have a wide-enough scope; I didn’t go far enough.”
He said the response he got was overwhelmingly positive.
“What it came down to was that I didn’t have as much time…and not enough resources,” Lescallette said.
Though the documentary was finished by December 2012, Lescallette was “too lazy” to upload it immediately, and the process of uploading the documentary to the Internet was giving him trouble.
When he finally got around to posting it on his Facebook mid-spring semester, Lescallette said he began getting friend requests from strangers with compliments on the film. He then put it on Tumblr and Reddit, where it gained popularity.
There were very few factual errors in the documentary, but they are ones Lescallette said he regrets.
“I wasn’t even thinking it would get big on the Internet or anything, so I wasn’t too concerned about it,” he said.
This summer, Lescallette said he plans on making the documentary much longer by adding additional footage and cleaning up the work he’s already done. Whether or not it’ll be a 90-minute documentary, he said he’ll just have to wait and see.
Patricia Madej can be reached at email@example.com.