Hidden in downtown Provo, tucked away down a long driveway, a passerby might hear the sound of a small crowd. As they get closer, the smell of cigarettes and sweat grows stronger. A van sits outside a small house where people unload instruments into the living room. Everyone is chatting cheerfully, excited to see one another and enjoy music together. A few hold cans of beer or bottles of vodka, a rare sight in Utah County. A vase sits on a table by the entrance where people can put in however much money they want as payment, but generally it should be $3 or more to help the touring band. This place feels like it was lifted from some other city.
This is the Compound.
It's just a small house where a couple guys named Joey and Bryan live. Joey books the shows and Bryan draws the flyers. The flyers give off a very late 80s/early 90s feel, recalling the animation of Beavis & Butthead or the more recent Superjail. You already know what kind of show you're in for the second you see one of Bryan's drawings. Dozens of them are on the walls of the living room - a history of Provo rock shows.
Tonight, I finally had the opportunity of going to a show there. I first heard about it a few months ago from SLFM's Jessica Davis and have been wanting to attend a show there since. Tonight the bands were Baby Ghosts, Burnt Reynolds & His Hot Bones, the Broken Spells (Joey's band), and King Louie's Missing Monuments from New Orleans. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it for the beginning of the show and missed the first two bands. But I managed to catch Broken Spells and Missing Monuments. It was an experience.
The energy at the Compound tonight was something I've never seen at Velour or Muse. Everyone was crowded together, standing attentively. The bands played at one edge of the living room with the kitchen as a backdrop (a sharp contrast to the curtains and stained glass windows at Velour or the brick painting of the Clash's London Calling at Muse). Both bands I saw played pretty straight foward 80's punk rock, reminiscent of the Minutemen, Mission of Burma, and Dinosaur Jr. There was yelling. There were guitar solos.
And there was moshing.
Moshpits are a rarity here in P-town. I think I've maybe seen one at Muse and then sort of half a mosh pit at Velour one time. But at the Compound, a venue for everyone else, people actually move to the music. People celebrate. There's nothing boring about it. The majority of the time everyone just looks so BORED at shows, sitting down and lazily listening to the band. But not at the Compound. The band and the audience are together, yelling and dancing and moving and playing rock and roll the way it should be played. Pretensions are thrown out the window. It's just... fun.
Now, don't get me wrong. I love Muse and Velour, despite what you may think. Lots of great bands play on University Ave. They help expose people to local musicians in a way no one else can. They give musicians an opportunity to showcase their songs to friends and strangers. They have a wide variety of styles playing, but mostly safer indie folk rock (Provo's favorite music). The Compound is pretty concentrated on garage/punk, as far as I can tell. It doesn't have shows nearly as often and isn't in any kind of competition with Provo's venues.What makes it so necessary is that it can be very hard to see those kinds of bands play at Velour/Muse. And even if they did, few people would get it and even fewer would actually dance to it. (A punk show is happening at Muse on Dec 17, but I'll be convincing you to go the next night.)
I encourage you, if you're into Rock & Roll, real Rock & Roll, to add The Compound on Facebook to get updates about when they next have shows, and I'll do my best to keep everyone updated on here too. I know that I'll be going back every chance I get.
m. lewis barker