Editor’s note: This is the second in a semi-regular series that will look at local music venues in Idaho Falls and eastern Idaho.
REXBURG — On a snowy Friday night, about 60 Brigham Young University-Idaho students and Rexburg patrons hang out in The Basement — a hole-in-the-wall venue that offers an escape from the typical Rexburg music scene.
“Play like it might be your last show, play like you’ve never played before,” is written in black marker right above The Basement’s entrance, as patrons walk down the stairs at 50 College Ave.
The Basement, with graffiti art of zombies and octopuses painted by patrons, is a safe haven for those longing to express themselves, Manager and BYU-I student Brenden Taylor said.
“I’m very laissez-faire with how things are run down here because so many people in this town have contributed to this space that they feel like it’s their space when they come in,” Taylor said. “It’s like home to them.”
A common music type played Friday night: soft alternative and indie rock, with acts such as Cancisco and The Howls drawing college students and even older couples to the alcohol-free music venue.
Taylor, who said he wants to go into audio engineering and broadcast, said he tries to book metal, punk rock and even hip-hop shows alongside the indie and alternative bands. He said some acts come from Provo, Salt Lake City and even Seattle.
But indie and alternative music, inspired by artists such as Mac DeMarco or Arcade Fire , is a fundamental sound of The Basement.
“I think that’s what’s popular among the Mormon crowd here,” Taylor says of indie rock, before Cancisco plays a cover of Two Door Cinema Club’s 2010 song, “What You Know” in a snug, dimly lit room that holds about 150 people.
Creating the venue
The Basement has had multiple names under previous ownership: Zeek’s, Sammy’s and Skizzy’s. Now under Taylor, who took the spot over in 2017 and pays the rent through the revenue made at shows, The Basement is trying to maintain a scene that sees people mostly come and go due to graduation and/or missionary trips.
“(Rexburg’s indie rock scene) is always in this state of existing,” said Tanner Waite , a member of The Howls and the person who made The Basement’s website. “It depends on a handful of people to keep it going and that handful of people is constantly changing. People don’t really stay in Rexburg; they’ll graduate and leave.”
Waite and Taylor said The Basement’s popularity, though, has continued to increase, with even larger bands like The Opskamatrists playing at the venue once.
“Now, it’s as good as it’s been since I’ve been here,” Waite said.
Taylor says he pays about $700 a month to sublease The Basement with the venue putting on one-to-two shows a week. He charges $7 at the door.
He says admission costs cover his expenses and he hasn’t put his own money into the venue.
With the money he’s earned from shows, he’s slowly upgraded the venue’s sound system and lighting, he said.
“The venue is a good expression of Rexburg artists: Small and lots lot of color,” 24-year-old Cancisco drummer Josue Salinas Ochoa said. “I think Brenden is the perfect image for it.”
Creating the music
The Basement’s indie rock scene is mostly driven by young musicians inspired by a wide variety of musicians such as The Strokes, The Cure and Matt and Kim, a Brooklyn electronic duo best known for their 2009 song, “Daylight.”
Indie rock, as a genre, grew in popularity during the 1970s and 1980s due to bands signing with independent record labels and was once described “alternative rock.” Bands such as Pixies and R.E.M. are considered some of the first bands to the sound.
Its definition has changed over the decades, though, with bands such as The White Stripes or Passion Pit mixing low-fidelity sounds (an aesthetic used to make the sound quality seem lower and imperfect) and a wide variety of sounds like folk, experimental chord progressions or piano notes.
Waite, 24, said music that inspires The Howls includes 1980s rock and synthpop bands like The Cure and The Human League, known for their 1981 hit, “Don’t You Want Me.”
He added that The Basement and indie music is a “counter culture” to what is normally shown at other venues in Rexburg or what may be shared on social media in Rexburg.
“The basement is a safe place to be creative,” Salinas Ochoa said. “I think we are all from different places and indie is a genre we can experiment with. Half of (Cancisco) are Latin-American and the other half is American, so our ideas mash and come together quite beautifully.”
In terms of the writing and the production process, Salinas Ochoa said Cancisco mostly writes about “being away from home.”
Originally from Mexico City, he said his experience in Rexburg and The Basement has “been positive,” as he plans on moving back home once he finishes his degree in biotechnology.
“It’s an experience of love,” he said of his time in Rexburg.