The crowd dancing to Snarls while they play at The Dollhouse on High Street in Columbus. Credit: Courtesy of CJ Fink

They call themselves the DIY, or “do-it-yourself” community,  a group of Columbus residents who dedicate their time to hosting series of house shows to bring a more intimate aspect to concerts as opposed to the typical concert venue experience.

House venues, often operated by the people that actually live in them, offer a more relaxed environment for the crowd to drink, meet new friends and dance to live music.

“The Dollhouse”

Ohio State students CJ Fink, a fourth-year in creative writing, Laurel Hilliard, a third-year in English, and Sara Liptow, a fourth-year in new media and communication technology, transformed their apartment on High Street into “The Dollhouse,” a female-run venue where they host concerts for local musicians, touring bands and other creative events.

Fink said the DIY venue is quite simple to set up — all she has to do is push her bed up against her wall.

Fink’s bedroom, overlooking High Street, has been center stage for local bands like Snarls, Stock Photo Family and The Bascinets.  

“It’s a nice way to give people the opportunity to start playing music,” Fink said. “If you were a band that’s just starting out there wouldn’t really be that many options for you if it weren’t for house venues.”

She said the house’s small interior bridges the gap between the band and the audience, making the show more intimate than what you experience at a typical concert.

Since there is no backstage, Fink said performers and audience members get to meet as soon as the concert is over.

She said the house show community is her alternative to typical college parties.

“I never really engaged well with people at normal house parties or enjoyed the conversation I would find at most of them, so going to house shows, people there were just more my type,” Fink said.

“Goo Lagoon”

Kelsey Yappel, a fourth-year in communications, transformed her off-campus house into “Goo Lagoon.”

She has hosted local bands like Cold Beaches and Elk Manakin and has allowed tired band members to crash on her floor for the night after their show.

“It’s like a big sleepover where you meet new people,” Yappel said. “Usually people who are touring are not doing it out of malevolency, they’re trying to just sleep somewhere.”

Yappel said when she was touring as a musician, she was always grateful to people who would open up their homes to the musicians, giving them a roof over their heads for the night. Knowing how much it can mean, Yappel said she hopes to provide that same relief to other bands.

“They’re not going to steal your stuff,” Yappel said. “They’re going to be grateful that they can sleep somewhere and shower and get fed sometimes.”

She said she has made lasting friendships with people that began as strangers at house shows, including her friendship with the residents at “The Dollhouse.” She said she sees this as a way to bring people together.

“Most of my friends right now are my friends because we all go to shows and engage in things like music,” Yappel said. “Being inside a smaller area gives you that push to be closer to people.”

“The Post Office”

Dana Pierog, who graduated from Ohio State in 2017 with a degree in marketing, hosts concerts at her Columbus home which she calls, “The Post Office.”

She said house shows are meant to be a safe space where everyone is welcome.

“You meet a lot of creative, artsy people,” Pierog said.

Pierog said all are welcome but advises those who are hesitant to attend to contact the owners of the household beforehand.

“We encourage people if they feel uncomfortable, reach out,” Pierog said. “You can get anyone coming to these shows and that’s kind of the risk of opening your door to people.”

The D.I.Y Community

The hosts said their community is working to make good music accessible to anyone who wants to listen, and they continuously encourage anyone to come to their house shows.

The shows are free but there is usually a suggested donation that covers travel necessities, like food and gas, for touring bands.

“It’s just nice that people are willing to do that, but they don’t have to fork over a ton of cash to enjoy live music,” Yappel said.

The hosts said they get the word out about their shows through social media, Facebook events, hand-made posters and word of mouth.

The Dollhouse on High Street will be hosting Lazy Susan & The BeanBag Boys and BigT&theBootyBoys with doors opening at 8 p.m. on Nov. 20.