Campus DIY bands look to fill void left by house show drought

With COVID-19 putting a kibosh on local house shows, campus bands are forced to grapple with a virtual reality.

Artist Jack Pfeffer riffs on one of his many guitars at his family home on Monday, Oct. 5. Pfeffer, who chose to take the year off from college rather than commit to fully online courses, is taking full advantage of his free time to write and record in his home studio. Though the live music scene in Minneapolis has felt the effects of the pandemic, Pfeffer continues to channel his creative energy into producing new tracks, often accompanied by fellow local musicians.

Meg Bishop, Arts and Entertainment

College house shows have suddenly become a thing of the past. Gone are the days of students going out on the weekends, crowding into a small Como basement to watch DIY bands play a sweaty setlist from the corner of the room.

With house show venues no longer available this fall, local bands are stuck and nostalgic as opportunities to grow their fanbase turn to nights of Instagram live streams and band practice.

“Fall is my favorite time of the year for house shows, and it feels so weird to not be playing house shows,” said Taylor Nice, lead singer of local punk band Partition. “Especially in a college town, it’s so fun when people are going to shows for their first time since they’ve been gone all summer. I really miss that energy.”

Social distancing regulations have made it hard to pack college kids into such a small area. “House shows won’t be a thing for a while. It’s nearly impossible to social distance inside a tiny basement,” said Jack Pfeffer of local indie band Jack Pfeffer, one of the many college bands that frequented Como house shows.

Partition released its debut LP “Prodigal Gun” in January, ahead of a now-defunct spring and summer tours. Their first show to get canceled due to COVID-19 was a house show. Since then, they’ve been forced to come up with a new plan

“We were working on a lot of songs that complemented the album to play live but now that’s not really going to happen, so we went ahead and started working on the next album,” Nice said. Partition could often be found playing in garages and basements on weekends around campus.

College “honk rock” band Vial was recently named City Pages “Best New Band of the Year” for 2020, and played one or more shows a week last fall. Now the band is working on its second album. Though the band had initially planned on dropping the album after summer touring, they still performed virtually at ROCKchester, Babefest and Fourchella.

This summer’s cancellations also forced bands to say a premature farewell to their favorite venues. “We would’ve been able to say goodbye to the Row House [a recent house show venue staple],” said Kate Kanfield, Vial’s bassist.

The quartet recently chose to make a TikTok account together and from there garnered more attention for the band’s music. “To combat everything that COVID[-19] has done, you have to stay really active on social media, which is what we’ve been trying to do,” said Katie Fischer, drummer for Vial.

Though not quite the same, online festivals have become a big part of the fight to keep the spirit of in-person concerts alive. “It was like, ‘Aww we could have been in this huge venue with a whole bunch of people and a whole bunch of other bands’ — so, like, bitter sweet,” said Taylor Kraemer, keytarist for Vial.

Pfeffer, whose band released a new album in August titled “This Morning’s Face,” said at least they made history.

“I am happy that I was able to be a part of, I’d say, maybe some of the last house shows for the near future.”