Author: Willa Rudolph
“This summer is a hedonistic one.” – Sofia Zarzuela
Beer for $3, enter through the basement, art and clothing vendors to greet you as you make your way toward the backyard. Trees and fairy lights create a sweet glow on everyone’s faces.
I spoke with Sofia Zarzuela (over text, as she is traveling), my dear friend and one of the stars and planners of the event.
Who planned the whole thing?
Gaby Mitford (who owns the house) and I did most of the planning with some help from Silvia [lead singer/guitarist for Silvia K.], Stav [guitarist of Sofia Zarzuela & frontman of GUN] and Jess [frontperson/brilliant mind behind JessX].
The lineup was inspired by the limited return of JessX, who moved back to Hawaii this year and came to play a round of summer shows. Jess is one of my favorite performers and really established themselves as a staple of the New York punk scene, and we’re all very sad to see them go again </3
What inspired the lineup?
The lineup is all people very near and dear to my heart. Silvia is Jess’s roommate and one of my best friends. GUN is my boyfriend and my other best friends. ITG.URL are sweethearts. And everyone’s played in someone else’s band at some point.
Where was it held?
It was held at Gabby’s amazing house in Ocean Hill, with a big backyard, in the last month before she had to leave. We brought in the whole backline and kit on the day before we had to fly to Europe, lol.
Why have you been doing more house shows lately?
Loving house shows because they have a vibe and cheap drinks and they’re outside. I find venues to be sterile a lot of the time (and they take all ur money!)
I want to play shows that just feel like parties. This summer is a hedonistic one for me and it makes me so happy to throw a show, and see all my friends there and get drunk and roll around on the floor.
It’s true, there really isn’t anything like a house show. More people are friends, more people talk to each other, more people get down and dirty, and you can make more money. It’s more intimate and it’s more fun…basically, it’s MORE!
I always say Sofia has the best scream in NYC [editor’s note: Perhaps this should be turned into a full listicle. Sofia’s scream is indeed insane.] so that was personally what drew me to the event. Plus this scene is very special to me, and I know a lot of these musicians pretty well.
Silvia K. kicked off the show with a dusk performance of her alt-metal noise rock with some underlying neo-folk melodies coming through in her vocals–vocals which oscillate from sweet and clear to screaming and whining, but, like, in an alluring type of way. Her alt-rock sound is inspired by 2000’s folk rock revival. She reminds me of Katie Jane Garside, who has many different musical projects and personalities. Silvia embodies multitudes as an artist, for sure.
She likes house shows “because of the intimacy. It feels sort of comforting and warm. I like seeing everyone’s faces without bright lights [blinding us],” she tells The Deli. Likewise there’s something so intimate, humble, sweet (even the dark songs) and raw about Silvia’s songs, it made all the more sense when she told me, “I write all of my songs on my own alone in my bedroom with my acoustic guitar. It usually starts [just] with writing though, stories or poems or little pieces of writing…I think I have over a thousand voice memos on my phone of just little story songs…”
The Silvia K. band members are Kyra Horario on bass (Maraya Fisher filled in at the house show), Chris Happe on lead guitar (when asked if he considers himself the lead guitarist, he said “I’m just noise man”), Billy Hay on drums, and Silvia on guitar and vocals. Silvia credits her influences as Elliot Smith, Bright Eyes, The Music Tapes, Sebadoh, Guided by Voices, The Microphones, The Silent Hill Soundtrack, growing up in the South, Samuel Beckett, Kurt Vonnegut, Jean Cocteau, Johnny Cash, Stina Nordenstam, Silver Jews, and Gregorian chant.
After Silvia, Sofia Zarzuela took the “stage” which was actually a few steps surrounded by trees. Sofia’s voice speaks for itself, piercing through the treetops in the backyard. People fall silent as she begins her set. Sofia is a straight up banshee.
Supported by drummer Billy Hay, guitarist Stavros Lari, and bassist Joe Kerwin, Zarzuela is unstoppable in her femininity–in stark contrast to the rest of her band. As mentioned above she has the best scream in NYC, because it’s so feminine and guttural and musical all at once.
Her live performances involve writhing around on the floor or standing in front of the mic with a kind of performative coyness and demureness, reflecting the mask women often wear to get what they want. Opening her set with “Pleasantville,” one of my favorites, it was followed by “Boys,” the one the entire crowd knew well enough to sing along.
Closing the set with a cover of “Shove It (My Own Summer)” by Deftones. Sofia is a little bit Hole, a little Mazzy, and a little Sky Ferreira while bringing something never-before-seen, representing a new generation and a different sensibility than the aforementioned legends.
Next, was GUN, a.k.a. “NYC’s MOST DANGEROUS BAND.” They are loud as hell, giving the crowd a bit of midwest emo and a lot of punk. Yelling rhythmically over fast paced, heavy rock beats on songs like “Cockroach Mentality,” the boys drive an aggressive vehicle of in-sync punk that even features remnants of ska.
“Love Thy Neighbor, Not Thy Roommate,” is another example of almost-Beastie-Boys talk-rock. The breakdowns they include that begin with either just the bass or just the guitar devolve and multiply as the drums come up from underneath in such a way that necessitates head banging. Stavros Lari (vocals & rhythm guitar) and Billy Hay (drums), both also in Sofia Zarzuela’s band, make an incredible team, and while half of Gun is half of Sofia Zarzuela, the two sets were totally different and unique.
Stavros tells The Deli, “We make heavy, fast paced music with influences from nu metal, hardcore punk, emo, industrial, and drum and bass music. We’re influenced by Deftones, The Prodigy, Limp Bizkit, and action movie soundtracks from the late 90’s to early aughts. Our inspiration comes from anime intros, action figure toy commercials and Adult Swim bumpers, more of a soundtrack to commercial aggression.” Their music is definitely masculine, but it’s not alienating at all, which I think is an impressive feat.
Closing out the night’s live band lineup was JessX, and having played with them last year at Mercury Lounge I already knew they’re incredible!! The energy JessX & co. muster is beyond human, not to mention the way they harness the energy of the crowd. They told me, “I love playing house shows because people come specifically for the music and I love the intimacy of it all.”
Jess will be moving back home to Oahu soon. Their time in New York this summer has been full of playing shows– a “goodbye tour” of sorts. “I feel like im still such a rookie back home in Oahu. I still have yet to gather an audience down there. I also have yet to meet more people in my age bracket that would fuck with my music. I feel like in terms of playing shows, New York will always be home for me…I feel like the bond that I share with who I started with here is just so special to me and we have built such a little family in this music scene.”
The set began with “Girlz.” “Girls, oh, girls, will know how to kill you! They pull you in and fuckin’ destroy you / Girls, oh girls, will know how to kiss you / Pull you right in, then fuckin’ dismiss you!” They scream and holler and jump around like Max from Where the Wild Things Are with fast-paced surf punk music gushing from the band’s instruments as Jess wails, screams, and melodically muses over it. Their music is coming-of-age in sound; a young person claiming their power, taking up space and not giving a fuck what it looks like!
The most memorable thing about JessX is their insane energy. On the anthemic “Void Fill” Jess yells, “I’m not your void, I’m not your fill / I’m not the cheapest little item on your bill!” Next up was “Mommy Issues” which is like Veruca Salt meets Bikini Kill, but not as centered on girlhood. Anyone can place themselves in Jess’s point of view and emotions, regardless of gender, dealing with feelings we can all relate to like badassery, frustration, angst, and asserting your power in a world where people may not expect you to do so.
Along with some crowd faves, Jess played two unreleased songs called “Bitter Kid” and “Bullets and the Bug.” Watching the response, it’s clear the scene they’re a part of is like a little family. Finally, Jess was followed by the DJ duo ITG.URL and the party raged on.
To sum up, house shows have taken over NYC this summer. They’re fun one-of-a-kind events and the sound is usually better than you’d expect at a DIY show. Plus the intimacy is so inspiring, making me want to run home and make some music of my own.
So check out the bands covered above and you’ll be inspired too. And keep an eye out for more house shows as they will surely be more coming up soon. Despite New York City not always making it easy, DIY house-show culture is alive and well.