On any given weekend night, hordes of University of Oregon students party in living rooms, basements and kitchens. But instead of trap music blaring through Bluetooth speakers, sweaty 20-somethings play indie rock to a rowdy crowd of their peers. In the morning, residents move couches back into place and clean up empty beer cans. Murmurings of the next show make their way around town through Facebook and word-of-mouth.
Eugene students and recent graduates have thrown concerts at places such as The Fish Tank, The Plant House, The Blair House and The Rat House — all venues that have made up the Eugene house show scene over the years.
“There’s something to be said with playing in a kitchen, a living room, a basement,” Nate Hansen, a member of the newly formed Blue Plant Collective, said. “That just can’t be recreated in a club space.”
Packed house shows are a staple of Eugene’s music scene due to their accessibility, intimacy and all-ages, do-it-yourself ethos. But the stability and quality of the scene has waxed and waned over the years, according to Hansen.
The Blue Plant Collective and its 40 or so members aim to produce house shows with professional production values around town. Members of Eugene bands, house show attendees and other scenesters are brainstorming to ensure quality house shows will continue in Eugene.
“For the time being, we want to create an active presence in the house show scene, specifically, and come to as many spaces as are willing to host us,” Hansen said.
Blue Plant was partly born out of a basement venue called The Blue Room that Hansen and a few other people ran because they saw a gap in quality at house concerts around town. Hansen would play and attend shows with great bands, but found the audio and lighting to be lacking in quality. Once he was playing a show and the power went off in the middle of his band’s set.
The Blue Room filled that quality gap for a year and a half, producing shows with professional sound production almost twice a week. But this summer, Hansen and his roommates moved out.
That’s when he and a few other people began to brainstorm ideas to continue producing house shows in Eugene that maintain the quality found at the Blue Room.
At the same time Hansen was moving out, beloved Eugene band Spiller was on a nationwide tour. Hansen broke the news to the band, and Spiller’s Sam Mendoza and Luke Broadbent, among the band’s other members, began brainstorming ideas about expanding the Blue Room’s mission.
With Blue Room’s closing and Spiller’s upcoming return, the timing seemed to click for the collective’s members. “It just felt right,” Broadbent said.
When Spiller returned to Eugene late last summer, other members of the scene joined the conversation, and soon Blue Plant Collective was created. Its name is a mishmash of The Blue Room and the Plant House — where Spiller began hosting and booking shows nearly two years ago.
In the collective’s few months of operation, members have met at an eclectic bunch of apartments to plan concerts and events, make partnerships with student co-ops such as the Lorax Manner and standardize their production process. The collective held its first show, with a lineup of Eugene bands including Novacane, Spiller and the Breakfast Boys Leisure League — at a house called The Fish Tank on Sept. 29.
At a meeting about a week after the show, members sat in an apartment near the School of Music and Dance drinking coffee out of worn mugs and eating birthday cake-flavored Oreos. They reflected on what went well at the show: Attendance was high, people came with relatively short notice and audience members seemed to enjoy it.
But they also learned a few things about interacting with a house’s residents and how to streamline certain processes — such as setup, cleanup and door security. One member of the collective, Rachel Hammack, brought up how she found out an audience member jumped the house’s fence during the show. The collective had a discussion from there about how to take better care of the spaces where it books shows.
“We’re constantly keeping our ears to the ground about how we can better streamline the show and make it feel like it’s a club show, but in a house space,” Hansen said.
These reflections led to a conversation about paying artists, insuring sound equipment and providing money to those who lend their houses for shows. They discussed potential legal questions about space use and noise complaints.
At the meeting, they also talked about upcoming shows and a potential partnership with the Lorax Manner to host Blue Plant lineups. Conversation flowed from one topic to the next, riding waves of ideas and excited interjections. Hansen said meetings have had a very unilateral decision-making process.
Although KWVA programming director and DJ Bobby Schenk took notes at the meeting, the collective doesn’t have a typical administrative structure — yet. Schenk said he’s creating a workflow so members and volunteers know what they are responsible for at each concert and each meeting.
The next event the collective has planned is a DJ show and art gallery on Oct. 20. Schenk will be DJing, along with another member Josh Berliner, who performs under the name Kid April.
Members of the collective were also present at a concert at the Lorax on Oct. 13. Spiller headlined right after Doink! (another Eugene band) and Connecticut band The Most also played.
At the show, members helped run doors, emcee and had a general presence. Though this may have been a typical Eugene show music wise, Spiller’s Mendoza said Blue Plant is aiming to book more than just indie-rock shows. Themed events, newcomer nights and smaller acoustic shows are all ideas that members have come up with. An all-ages, accessible ethos colors all the events they have planned.
“Where the young people are is where some of the best stuff is happening. That’s where all the energy and youthfulness in music is happening,” Mendoza said. “And if you can’t give people a platform to play, then what’s the point?”
Maybe, some members said, the collective will add a multimedia component like acoustic house show purveyors Sofar Sounds or even try booking shows at Eugene music venues in the future.
But for now, Blue Plant Collective is just aiming to put on well-produced shows in a streamlined way at houses that will take them. Anyone can volunteer their house for shows.
“Everyone is like ‘Yeah, Eugene has a great house show scene,’ and it totally does.” Spiller’s Luke Broadbent said. “But it only does if you maintain it.”
To find out more about Blue Plant shows, visit the collective’s Facebook page at Blue Plant Productions. House addresses are usually posted in a concert’s Facebook event the day of each show.