Looking into the Donatos Pizza on campus at 10 p.m. on a Friday night, one might think the place is nearly dead.
There are two 30-somethings at the bar and a bearded man asleep in a booth. But if you were to enter the campus pizza joint you would immediately hear — even feel — something very alive. There is a muffled hum of guitars, a faint voice shout-singing unintelligible lyrics and a distinct, rhythmic rumbling coming from the floorboards.
Head downstairs and you will quickly discover the source of this electric buzz. Amid a dense, denim-clad crowd, local band Fullsend blares out its trademark psychedelic sound. Singer Austin Harsh, outfitted in a pastel pink romper, belts out the words to their final song, Monkey Funks. Before the final chords have rung out, the audience is already in an uproar. Soon after, the bandmates scramble to clear their equipment from the stage before the next act.
Performances like this are part of a long-standing tradition of do-it-yourself artists in the Columbus area. DIY musicians, as the name suggests, are responsible for every aspect of their band’s success. This could mean social media promotion, recording songs or even providing their own sound equipment for concerts. Their highest priority, however, is always to provide an entertaining live performance.
There are many ways to spend your weekends in Columbus, but the music scene near campus — in all its forms — presents an unbeatable diverse, yet tight-knit option. Between the DIY community and student organizations, there is a place for everyone in this bustling culture.
The day after Fullsend’s show on Nov. 29, Harsh and bassist Alex Robinson describe what they enjoy so much about DIY music from the corner of Kafe Kerouac, a combination coffee shop, bar, record store, bookstore and concert venue that serves as a cultural hub for the campus scene.
“I think it’s very personable; actually seeing a person make the music that you’re hearing,” Robinson said. “You get this kind of connection to the artist. They’re discovering the sound at the same time that you’re discovering it, so it’s new to everybody … It’s an experience that’s unique to that specific moment in time and it can’t be replicated … You’d want to have been there, because you can’t be there again. ”
According to Harsh, there is a place for everyone — not just musicians — when it comes to making these performances happen.
“The music might be the center of what’s going on, but there’s a whole art community and supporting cast and crew around that for it to get off the ground,” he said.
Campus band Lazy Susan & the BeanBag Boys, another shining example of the marriage between Columbus DIY music and the student body, couldn’t agree more. The connection between audience and artist seems to be the musicians’ favorite aspect of live shows as well, and nowhere does that shine more than at intimate house venues.
“You get a chance to see a band play, and then talk to them afterwards,” singer Anna Weber said. “Different than if you were to see someone at the Newport.”
And while most off-campus weekend activities are heavily focused on alcohol or sports, DIY shows are all about the music. This creates a low-pressure environment where students can find more in common than just the drink in their hand or the score on the screen.
Zayn Dweik, chief of staff for Undergraduate Student Government and member of five bands, thinks that this strong sense of community is one of the best reasons to attend a house show..
“[That] connection and longing to be with people that share a similar sentiment or have been in similar scenarios – I think that’s what pulls me,” Dweik said. “[I want] to be around a group of people that want to create and express themselves along with one another.”
But more than anything, he enjoys the diversity. No two shows are the same, even if the lineup on the poster might be. “You don’t know what you’re in for; what kind of music you’re going to hear, what you’re going to get that night, what type of show,” he said.
“I’m always impressed by how many people just want to come see live music,” Dweik said. “That [audiences] still want to hear something new, and fresh, and raw and sort of unfiltered – that’s inspiring.”