A modest house on Reid Street pulsed with music. Jacketless kids infested the narrow porch, bumming cigarettes and mumbling about humanity and fashionable hair styles.
Getting inside was like an obstacle course, as booze heavy legs crawled over a puddle of assorted footwear. Slumped on a couch were a few people lazily passing a sludge-filled bong, while a few others floated around the kitchen, admiring their beer selections.
This was indeed a house party, but it was if all the inhabitants were cockroaching away from the house’s main level. The basement door was cracked—exposing a slew of people sprawled along the stairs. Beyond the crowded kneecaps was the party’s main entertainment: the bands.
At that point, there was a scrawny shirtless figure singing into a microphone, with the night’s set list scrawled across his chest, intertwining with his sparse nipple hairs. The sweaty vocalist was backed up by two guitars, one bass and drums. This was The Coward’s second live performance— if you don’t know who they are, that’s okay. They’re new.
House shows in cramped basements are how most bands start before gaining gigs at established venues around town. Despite how incestuous the Fredericton music community seems, The Cowards bass player Colton Coombs says breaking into the scene and setting up shows can be intimidating.
“Some of the difficulties you face being a new band are the obvious ones like is the crowd going to enjoy what we’re going to play? But then there’s the whole not knowing a bunch of people and knowing there’s already a bunch of bigger names that are playing around,” said Coombs. “It’s kind of scary.”
It was this kind of attitude and house shows like the above mentioned which motivated Abigail Smith to organize her own show at Cafe Loka, her place of employment. Smith will be hollowing out the petite coffee shop and hosting it out to local bands Sexghost, The Arlens and the upcoming Cowards.
Sexghost and The Arlens have experienced some success around the city and have played a number of shows. This will be The Cowards first public show.
“All of my friends have so much talent and creativity and I think that the only aspect missing is the motivation to put it out there. I wanted to be the driving force in making something real happen,” said Smith.
The first-time event organizer has always favored the do-it-yourself aspect of the music scene. Smith recalls attending a few punk shows which were packed into a Sackville deli. There’s just something so punk about jamming a bunch of jumping bodies into a sweating meat shop.
“I always say that I’m not an artist, but a professional audience member. And I think Cafe Loka just feels like such a good space for something like this,” said Smith.
In the past, Cafe Loka has played host to a weird assortment of events including speed-dating, acoustic sets and some Shifty Bits Circus shows. Despite the venue’s successes, Smith has concerns about her pop-up show.
“I was worried that the location wouldn’t be taken seriously. I just didn’t want people to think it’s going to be some crappy cafe show because this is something that should be happening more often.”
Shows at places like Cafe Loka or Renu Boutique serve as an alternative to the traditional shows hosted by the Capital Complex. There’s nothing wrong with the popular bar, but it’s become the only place in town to hear some authentic music. And for many, going to the same place every weekend is growing stale.
“I’m sure a fresh location could be really helpful in bringing a new perspective to the music scene,” said Smith “Then it kind of feels like you’re spreading out the music instead of containing it in one bar.”
The Cowards, Sexghost and The Arlens will play Cafe Loka on Mar. 29. Music kicks off at 7:30 p.m. $4 at the door.
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