Basement Transmissions has been a favorite arts spot of mine for a while now in Erie. Every show and event is completely different, and every artist is brimming with palpable creativity, whether they’re a local act or an out of town act. I’ve seen shows here with the venue completely packed to capacity, and I’ve seen shows where only 7 people came: all were amazing, all were played with the same amount of passion and talent from the artists performing. I admittedly haven’t always been able to say the same about other artists I’ve seen in venues around the world (which is quite a large swath of the world, I might add). Every time I’ve been to Basement Transmissions for a show, there’s more than just ‘a crowd’. There tends to be a strong sense of community among those attending, a strong sense of knowing you’re there to appreciate something larger and have fun with it, and that’s what’s always drawn me back.
More than just a music venue, Basement Transmissions has also been increasingly showcasing artists and creatives of a wide variety of talents, including poetry, film, and any number of traditional arts and mediums. Even at this event, not only were there four bands, but there was a small art show being showcased in the back room of the venue where artists were invited through multiple Facebook posts to come hang their work. The man in charge of it all, Bob Jensen, is one of the most passionate and creative individuals I’ve ever encountered when it comes to the arts in any form, so when he approached me and asked if I wanted to start reviewing live shows at the venue, the only answer for me was an exceedingly enthusiastic ‘yes’.
This particular show took place on January 13th at the venue, featuring The Sex Blossoms, Jivan, Instead of Sleeping, and Joose. I really cannot overstate how lucky I am that this particular show is the first I write about, because everyone and everything was amazing. The talent of the artists behind the art in the back room was amazing, the staff were all amazing and friendly, the bands were amazing and friendly, and the crowd was amazing and friendly. Everything was good vibes all around, and there were free tacos. It could not have been better.
The Sex Blossoms
Stand-Out Track: The Ballad of Noah and Joe
The Sex Blossoms are a duo consisting of Andrew Henderson and Madeline Genest, who are both extremely talented (and they are an exceptionally cute couple). I’d previously seen Andrew play with his other band Maddock, one of my favorite local acts, so I was pretty excited to see what else he was working on. Their set was completely acoustic, no microphones or sound equipment: just these two sitting on the stage with a guitar. They opened the set by inviting the crowd to come join them in sitting on the stage. For such a simple set, I was completely blown away by how well their vocals complemented each other, how intricate their harmonies were, and how emotionally charged all of the above elements made the performance. Their sound is dream-like and as intimate as the performance, and their lyrics are interesting and well-thought out (with a bit of an edge).
Stand-Out Track: Astrophe
I’ll start this by being completely honest: I don’t remember many details of Jivan’s set…because I was dancing and headbanging. Jivan’s music and playing style are such great mixes of classic prog rock and modern influences. They’re a throwback for more than their style, because their work is definitely the type of music I absolutely lived for growing up. Jivan describe themselves as “prog rock wizards” on their Bandcamp page and it’s a 100% accurate self-assessment. My knee-jerk reaction after their first song was “Rush meets Tesseract and makes a sexy, guitar-driven baby”, and seeing them name both Rush and Tesseract on their Facebook page under “Artists We Also Like” made complete sense. If you’re into deep, vibey jams by styling dudes dressed like they just left the 70’s, Jivan are who you should be rocking out to. Immediately.
Instead of Sleeping
Stand-Out Track: Speak Into Me
This Pittsburgh-based band makes solid indie rock with a strong pop sensibility. They have an immense stage presence, generally just leaving you with a great impression and warm fuzzy feeling overall. To start, the band brought free tacos for every attendee. You can’t go wrong with that. The show’s page even called the event “Woody’s New Year Taco Throw Down” (the Woody in question is Woody Wright, guitarist and keyboardist) on Facebook, and that’s not really something you can easily top. Secondly, their festival-lighting-esque set up was what dreams are made of. I’m a sucker for atmospheric mood lighting during performances and I think it’s underutilized by musical acts. Bonus points right off the bat. Thirdly, they played some seriously great shake-it-and-get-down music.
I was lucky enough to be joined during their set by a friend who is a huge fan, and seeing her and others in the crowd react with such excitement and happiness before the band even started playing spoke volumes to me about them and their work. Even with all the hype about the band provided by my friend before the show, I wasn’t let down at all. There was a lot of dancing and singing – and entire groups of people holding hands while doing so – and that’s the perfect summary of the band and their vibe. There were also people hula hooping in the very back of the crowd near the end of the set, which is something completely new to me, but I approve wholeheartedly. If there’s a band to hula hoop to after you’ve sang and danced and held hands with your friends in the crowd, it’s definitely Instead of Sleeping.
Stand-Out Track: Everyday
Joose was definitely the band I was most excited to see live, and it would seem I wasn’t alone, because if the crowd wasn’t already pumped during Instead of Sleeping, it definitely qualified when Joose started. I hadn’t personally seen the four-piece group live yet, but I have seen their frontman, Jack Stauber, play multiple shows with his solo work. I honestly can’t say enough good things about his music, his stage presence, and his level of creativity. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, since not a lot of their work is online, but they have a perfect blend of rock influences, some funk, some almost Queens of the Stone Age-esque guitar riffs, some extremely catchy songs and insanely charismatic vocals. And when they played it got crazy. Real crazy. Good crazy. Let me set the scene here by saying that before they even finished setting up, the bassist came on stage in a purple panda pajama suit, and got his 5-string bass duct taped to him. (New idea for a duct tape advertisement: It Can Fix Anything, Even Your Bassist.)
As soon as that happened, the floor got cramped pretty fast, and everyone was crowding the front. I immediately knew I was in for something great. Everything from there was a blur of awesome: stunning instrumentation from every member (even the duct taped panda bassist), intense and amazing vocals, and all around just a completely electric performance from all parties…and a literal conga line in the crowd. Twice. I found myself watching people in the crowd as often as I was watching the stage: everyone was so invested in the performance but completely wild, the moshing went from group crab dancing to group hugging and back to dancing within seconds. At one point, someone was lifted onto the stage and danced with the band before being quite casually carried back out to the floor. Just completely insane and wonderful and I have never seen a happier crowd.