↬ At Pandora’s Box

A few months ago, my band Echoes from Jupiter played a gig in our town. We think it was pretty tight and representative of where we stand now. We not only really enjoyed the setup, but we also got to share the ticket with Gulfer and Vasudeva, two amazing acts.

Let me tell you a bit about the venue where the video above was shot (thanks to Nikolas Stanley Marceau).

When we arrived at around 7 pm, there were four people waiting for us at a nondescript garage door in downtown Québec. Two of them were named David : one was the soundman for the show and the other was the tenant of the place. Not the owner : this venue is his own apartment, which he calls Pandora’s Box when he welcomes local and foreign bands looking for a small, dense, cheap venue. At the time, he hosted about two shows per month. Each time, he moved all his furniture and belongings in his bedroom so all that remains is the countertop, the stove fan and two huge speakers.

Before the show, David can be seen helping the other David set up the PA system, tweaking the playlist he prepared for the growing crowd and chatting with the band members who are setting up their guitars and drums. Although a lot of people seem to know each other, it’s clear that it’s not a typical house party; you might spot the occasional curious music fan in a corner.

This peculiar arrangement has a neat story behind it : David has had a rock band for a few years and they used to play in his appartment. His landlord, who frequently overheard his music, found a certain similarity with Pink Floyd’s hardest material and urged him to start doing real gigs in front of real people.

However, in David’s town, rock’n’roll clubs and small venues for underground and weird music are rare and quite expensive for band who can’t sell tickets. For a lot of bands, this means paying to play their own music in front of people, something David abhors. He took his landlord to his word and asked him to use a small unoccupied commercial spot in the building (he called it Noise Isn’t Noise, and it was pretty great). This worked for a few weeks until a lease got signed, but David decided to continue his operation in his own apartment, conveniently located on the first floor of the building (the hair salon upstairs is closed when the bands play and the tenant on the third floor is a friend who doesn’t mind).

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David’s share of the pie definitely isn’t big in financial terms : When he asked my bandmates and I was how we were going to split the door money (a suggested donation of $5) between the three bands, he was asking this question quite literally : All he asked as his share was the price of a 6-pack of PBR.

His real takeaway is more long-term : Thanks to the connections he developped with foreign bands playing in his living room, he has built a network of people who will hopefully help him play in similar venues in Montreal, Chicago and New York with his band Cyanide Eyes.

The regulars of the place loved the punk ethos, the BYOB policy, the cheap cover charge and the incredible closeness to the bands. For bands, this was an incredible deal. It’s no secret that packing 40 people in a small room makes for a better ambiance than having a hundred in a 1000-seat venue. You can pretty much feel the energy through videos shot at both Noise Isn’t Noise and Pandora’s Box.

Since then, David stopped booking bands in his room and Pandora’s Box, as a venue, has been shut down. However, he continued booking people in other venues and is still active on the Québec scene.

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It’s been a while since Echoes from Jupiter’s first LP and it might be a while until the next one, but here’s a little something that might be of interest. We record everything we play to have something to critique and to improve upon and this show was no exception. We set up three iPhones before starting to play and Steve roughly mixed the outputs together. This is definitely not something we would release as an official EP, but why not share it, if only to give a sign of life. Thanks to Steeve Maltais for the “cover” picture and apologies for the slight buzz in Cardiff.

(This post was also published in French over at carnet.fmgagnon.com)